I recently signed up to receive The Breathe Network’s e-newsletter. In it I found a wonderful article by Molly Boeder Harris, founder of The Breathe Network.
The article is profound on many levels and I encourage you to check it out in it’s entirety: When The Rape Myth Is Your Reality
Below I’ve excerpted one paragraph that I found particularly meaningful.
“In the prevention education and awareness raising work I do on the topic of sexual violence, I critique these aforementioned “safety tips” as they are geared towards stranger attacks and over 80% of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. They support rape myths that keep the majority of our communities ignorant about the nature of sexual violence and prevent us from having survivor-centered responses when someone discloses to us. I also critique them because I refuse to ask certain populations (women and girls, people of color, LGBTQ identified folks, and more) to conform to a bigoted society constructed around fear and power inequity. Not to forget the many male survivors whose abuses have been insidiously flipped by the patriarchy into glorious and strange conquests of their supposed insatiable sexuality, while the preciousness of their own right to decide how and when and with whom is stolen, and replaced by the mandatory guise of a sexually aggressive masculinity. Instead, I believe that we can demand nothing less than a total transformation of these accepted standards for how to increase safety by focusing on those who make all of us unsafe. Let’s ask them to change, let’s give them the education and teach them the compassion so that they can in fact change. We must create wider, more inclusive, spaces where people can recognize and remember their own humanity (as well as grieve their own losses) if they are ever going to witness the humanity of another, and make a different choice.”
A few weeks ago I was reading my local newspaper and saw an ad for a “Rape Defense” class. I’ve certainly seen adds like this before, but this one made me really mad. It was advertised as a great mother / daughter activity. Why do women and girls have to take a class to learn how not to be raped? Why aren’t there classes to teach perpetrators not to rape? Are there father / son classes to teach respect of women? This gets to the whole dismantling rape culture movement and how sexism and hetero-sexism are so pervasive in our culture.
The prevailing attitude is that women need to take responsibility for not being raped. Walking alone? Out after dark? Wearing revealing clothing? These attitudes cause women not to report rapes and to feel shame when a rape occurs. As society we need to turn this around. Everybody needs to feel responsibility for preventing sexual ~ and all other ~ violence. And our society (and the perpetrators) should feel shame ~ not the victims ~ when violence occurs in our cities, streets and neighborhoods.
I know intellectually that there was nothing I could have done to prevent my assault. Still, over many years I’ve spent countless hours going over it in my head wondering if there was any little thing I could have done differently. That is the work of shame. Thankfully I no longer own the shame of my assault. That is on my attacker and on all of us ~ society ~ who by action or inaction condone violence.
Thank you, Molly Boeder Harris, for raising this challenge in the course of your wonderful, courageous and in-depth article.