Call to Action: Challenge Rape Culture!

“I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” No, Mr. Trump, you can NOT do anything you want because you’re a star.

The release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Donald Trump made these statements was followed with over a dozen women accusing him of sexual assault. These women were met with immediate social media backlash assuming that they were making up allegations for money because “Why else would they just now be pressing charges?”

In November 2016, Jane Doe, the woman bringing charges against Trump, suddenly dropped her lawsuit.  Rumors have been circulating that she was afraid to pursue her suit because of death threats while others believe that she had been lying all along. We may never know if those allegations are true but what people fail to understand is that it is NOT unusual for people to wait a long period of time to come forward with rape or sexual assault allegations and for most to NEVER report it.

From the moment of birth, males and females are plagued by gender stereotypes.  Men are assumed to be naturally aggressive, dominating, rational, and impulsive while women are assumed to be passive, submissive, emotional, and manipulative. Women are expected to be soft and non-confrontational in their speech, while men are expected to be forceful and outspoken.  A woman loses her voice in our society, while a man loses his ability to be vulnerable.  Women are assumed to provoke men with their feminine wiles while men are incapable of thought and choice.  Men are assumed to be the macho defender while women play the damsel in distress. Layer gender stereotypes with the struggles of racism and cultural expectations for people of color.  You can now say “hello” to rape culture where survivors of assault are blamed for not getting over it quick enough, not being able to stop it or being the ones to provoke it by “sending out the wrong message” to their attackers.

Most people who experience sexual assault will tell you that they were ashamed despite the fact that it was not their fault.  They will tell you that when they confided in others, they were immediately questioned about what they did to provoke the assault, that they really must have wanted it or they were lying.  They will also tell you that they fight daily with themselves to decide if they should report it but there is no guarantee that our legal system can protect them and, even if it did, they will face social ostracism.  Many survivors struggle daily with vivid nightmares, the physical discomfort of living in their own bodies, anxiety, depression, dissociation, flashbacks, and with an uncertainty of how to feel secure in their identities again.

If you’re in doubt that rape culture exists, check out the results of a poll done by the Washington Post and ABC News prior to the election in which 68% of registered voters believed that Donald Trump was guilty of sexual assault, 14% believed that he was not guilty and 43% of likely voters said that they would still vote for Trump despite their belief that the sexual assault allegations are true.  Did you catch that?  43% of likely voters said they would STILL VOTE FOR TRUMP despite believing he sexually assaulted over a dozen women in the course of the past 10 years.  There are even more examples of rape culture in our society.  Look at the Stanford Rape case in which the attacker’s father expressed his dismay that the survivor of his son’s attack would dare to ruin his young life. Or the Dietrich Assault case in which a white football player received 2 to 3 years of probation for shoving and kicking a hanger into the rectum of his Black peer.  These are only three examples of the many cases that show dismissal and minimization of sexual assault.

No person should ever have to experience the emotional turmoil and social backlash of reporting a sexual assault.  So we ask you to participate in a Call to Action to help challenge and change rape culture while supporting survivors of sexual assault. Below are links to sign a petition to our new administration, donate time or money to RAIIN, a leading advocacy group in the United States for sexual assault survivors, and a sample letter that you can cut and paste to send to your local and state representatives.

Sign the petition herehttps://www.rainn.org/

Donate here: https://donate.rainn.org/

Volunteer here: https://www.rainn.org/get-involved

Letter to Local and/or State Representative Here:

The below sample letter was taken from the points on EROC (End Rape On Campus). You can find your local state representative here at http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ 

Dear ____________,

In order to begin challenging rape culture in our society, we must address the pitfalls in our education, legislation and law enforcement. One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. We have an obligation to address this in schools.  If students are just learning about consent, healthy relationships, and dating violence at college orientation, then it’s already too late! Students in primary and secondary schools are learning to manage relationships and this is the best time to establish and reinforce a culture of consent.  I’m asking that you please support comprehensive healthy relationship and consent education at the primary and secondary level.

I am also asking that you support legislation establishing affirmative consent standards on college campuses since a “no means no” approach places the burden on those that are expected to rebuff unwanted sexual advances. There are many instances in which a survivor is unable to say no or does not say no.  This does not mean the interaction was consensual- only “yes” means yes.  An affirmative consent legislation will also protect students who are incapacitated when assaulted.  “Yes means yes” fosters a culture of consent and respect.

In addition, I would also strongly encourage you to ensure that our law enforcement agencies receive trauma-informed training because the very first interactions between them and survivors of sexual assault will impact the success of a case.   It has been shown that investigations are more effective and survivors are better protected from unnecessary trauma when investigatory personnel receives a 40-hour trauma-informed training.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

This is one of the most important causes in our collective culture and we hope our #SUN members will join our SuitUp Nation efforts to put an end to sexual assault and victim shaming.

Visit SuitUp Nation on Facebook to join in the conversation, share your story, and become part of the #SUN movement.