Trigger Warning: Contains discussion of sexual assault
When scrolling through Instagram stories a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across my teenage brother’s page. I expected his post to be an image from his race or of him holding a trophy, as these are the typical pictures I see on his story. I was pleasantly shocked to see what was on my screen was never anything I could fathom seeing on a 16-year-old boy’s Instagram story: There on the screen in front of me was a thread about sexual violence.
The post on his story was from a thread on the Instagram account @pelhamunsilenced. The words on the post read “Rape,” “Molestation,” “Pedophile” and “These words carry weight; They carry trauma; They are not to be used lightly.” In larger font at the bottom of the post, it stated: “Sexual violence is not a source for your amusement.”
Tears started welling in my eyes because I was so unbelievably proud and amazed by him. I had no idea what prompted him to post, but I was glad that he was spreading awareness about the spectrum of sexual violence.
I then posted the thread on my own story, choosing to share the image that displayed statistics about women experiencing rape. It further dictated how words about rape are not a joke because that “joke” could be someone’s reality. I also added my own dialogue to the post on my story, saying, “I’m so proud of my 16-year-old brother for posting this thread about why it’s not okay to make rape jokes on his story. You don’t often see teenage boys spreading awareness about rape, much less educating themselves on it. The fact that he is taking the time to do both gives me hope.” I let my brother know I was proud of him, not expecting this to be a regular occurrence.
However, to my surprise and awe again, about a week later, my brother posted another image thread to his Instagram story on the topic of why women retroactively wished they did not report their sexual abuse. The thread was posted by @whyididntreport and included a list of quotations the police officer said in response to the reports of sexual violence. It was clear through their words that the aforementioned law enforcement officers did not support these female survivors.
At the top of the image, before the list of quotes, there were bolded letters that stated, “MAN’S WORLD INDEED.” And it is precisely because of this why I was shocked to see my brother posting once again about sexual assault. Instead of sitting back and not worrying about the topic because he is a man and likely does not have to worry as much about being coerced, forced, manipulated or guilted into having sex, he used his social media platforms to speak out about the topic. I responded to his post, saying, “Emerson, you are amazing! Keep spreading awareness!” He liked the message I sent.
Later, I called to ask him why he decided to post the threads about sexual assault awareness. His response to this was a simple “I don’t know; why not?” I sat and thought for a moment. My 16-year-old brother was sitting here telling me this was a perfectly normal thing for him to post. He basically just saw the posts and thought it was something he could share. He did not think about how spreading awareness would make him look or if he was going to be judged by his male friends. He just saw a post that was impactful and knew he should share it.
He then told me he was speaking to his girlfriend about the topic of sexual assault, which is why the post resonated with him. Imagine, a teenage boy listening to his girlfriend about a subject most men do not want to touch. If all boyfriends or guy friends listened to us women about the subject, maybe there would be less sexual violence. But the thing is, many men never want to listen.
As a survivor, I am passionate about sexual assault awareness, and I often post and talk about the topic. I was so proud of my brother for trying to prevent sexual violence rather than being a perpetrator of sexual violence. I smile to myself as I think about how amazing of a man he is turning out to be.
As my brother showed his followers on Instagram, sexual violence occurs on a spectrum. It begins with words and continues into physical violence through actions. Many of us are ignorant of this information, which is why we are so quick to make rape jokes or blame victims without thinking we are contributing to sexual violence.
The truth is that you rarely see men of any age educating themselves about sexual assault, much less posting about it, yet I see so many of my female friends posting about awareness and prevention on their stories. It is important to promote discussion on this subject in order to create safer sexual environments and have better sexual experiences. But if only half of the population takes the time to educate themselves, we will only create environments that are half-safe. It takes all of us to stop sexual violence. So here is a question for all the men out there: If my 16-year-old brother can educate himself and post about sexual assault awareness, why can’t you?
If my 16-year-old brother believes survivors, why can’t everyone? If my 16-year-old brother recognizes the pain that comes along with sexual trauma, why can’t we work harder to stop it or help those who have been hurt by it?