We Have to Change the Culture

If you did not know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Raising awareness for sexual assault started back in the early 1970s, but SAAM was not nationally known until 2001. For nearly 50 years, women have been protesting and fighting against such violence. What saddens me the most, is that it feels like we havne't made much progress. Why? Well let’s thank society for that. As a society, we victim blame, put the pressure on women than men and lack the knowledge on what falls under sexual assault in the first place.  When a sexual assault case is brought to the forefront, I am always amazed at how people prematurely judge and criticize individuals that have encountered assault. Yet,  people get upset  or wonder why it may take someone so long to speak up.

"It’s sad that I have to say luckily because everyone is not so lucky." 

My first time being sexually assaulted was my freshman year of college. I was slightly intoxicated, but coherent enough to know where I was, who I was with and capable of holding a conversation. That night I text this guy I was casually talking to (literally just talking) and asking him to pick me up because my friends were getting on my nerves. I remember getting into his car and saying I was not having sex with him.Once we got to his place, I repeated to him that it was not happening. However, he still tried. I was in shock and my reflexes to fight him off felt delayed. Luckily when I was able to tell the guy it hurt and to stop, he did. It’s sad that I have to say luckily because everyone is not so lucky. Years went by and I never spoke about it, until recently. For so long, I put all the blame on myself. I felt that I put myself in a situation that resulted to that night. However, I later realized that it was not my fault. I made it clear what I did not want to happen and yet my words we disregarded.

"Unfortunately, as women, we are consistently being policed and told how NOT to get raped. Instead, we should be teaching our men not to rape. "

I wish I could say that my situation was unique, but I would be delusional to believe so. Environments like college campuses are not unaccustomed to cases like this. As freshman, I am sure many of us sat in auditoriums being told to walk in groups and to never walk alone or to never leave a cup unattended. If you are a woman, I am pretty sure you had this talk way before that moment. Unfortunately, as women, we are consistently being policed and told how NOT to get raped. Instead, we should be teaching our men not to rape. 

A few months back, a friend of mine posted about her assault on Facebook and as I am reading the comments, I caught this long ignorant response:

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The word disgust isn’t strong enough to describe how I felt at that moment. To insinuate that it is not a good idea to get drunk around men because you could be raped or assaulted is ridiculous and idiotic. A woman should be able to get drunk around 10 men if she felt like it and not get sexually assaulted. Then to think you just solved all rape culture issues by telling women to speak up and resist goes to show you aren't listening. There have been plenty of women that have asked men to stop and that they do not want to have sex but still are raped. This way of thinking shows that you are part of the problem. Men like this are why women like me are afraid to speak up. Men like this contribute to this problematic issue. Men like this rape and see no fault in their actions. I am sick of it and ready for change. 

"Changing how we view sexual assault can alter our way of thinking and by changing how we think, we can take the steps to end these type of situations." 

We can shift the movement and create change in rape culture. Things like debunking the victim blaming, holding people who commit sexual assault accountable and educating our young men can be the starting point. I cannot stress this enough. So instead of asking “what was she wearing?” tell your sons that no matter what she is wearing, she isn’t asking for it. Instead of groping women in the club (because that's sexual assault), keep your hands to yourself! There has been too many times I've experienced or witnessed men groping women as they walk by at social events like parties that it has become a norm. Lastly, if a woman says no or does not give you consent, LISTEN! Changing how we view sexual assault can alter our way of thinking and by changing how we think, we can take the steps to end these type of situations.