This past summer, I wrote on the topic of street harassment and highlighted my friends’ and I’s personal experiences concerning this matter.
Since then, I have learned, I have grown and I have more to say on this matter.
I went to a colloquium style lecture over the weekend concerning the rhetoric surrounding sexual assault and rape. During the session, a number of misconceptions and myths were discussed and the facts, as far as the research is concerned, made very clear. The discussion was lead by a prevention specialist at the rape crisis center in the Cleveland area. I want to share what stuck out the most to me:
1) 8 out of 10 men are not comfortable with words like “bitch” or “slut” being directed at women.
I know what you’re thinking; because I thought it, too. No Way. It seems like a rather large percentage of men yet if you and I were to go on our personal experiences alone, it seems like a much smaller number. But there’s a reason for that. You see, those 80% of men are uncomfortable but think they’re the only ones in the room who are uncomfortable. The other 20% are obviously very vocal but little do they know, they are the minority.
2) Paradigm Shift
When it comes to sexual assault and rape, the two individuals always talked to and about are the perpetrator and the victim. As the prevention specialist reminded us, crisis centers know what to do for victims but they are not sure what to do about perpetrators. He also spoke so passionately about shifting the paradigm so that we no longer talk about what a victim ‘should have done’ because these crimes are not something society should ever pin on the victim. Instead, as a culture we must shift our thinking toward prevention. Not victim prevention; but preventing the perpetrator by making it unacceptable for a perpetrator to exhibit certain types of language, behaviors and or actions.
3) Empower the Bystander
What does this look like? It will vary. From the Hollaback campaign to suggesting the party guests get pizza when you see behavior that makes you uncomfortable. If 8 out of 10 men are uncomfortable with derogatory terms being directed toward women, that’s 8 out of 10 men who are more than likely uncomfortable with derogatory behavior being directed toward women. That’s a silent majority that can really begin this idea of empowering the bystander. Together men and women can begin to make it socially unacceptable to say and do anything that even hints at the potential of sexual assault or rape. I know it can seem incredibly daunting when it seems like all we hear is the very vocal opposition. But remember, you’re not the only one!