In a generation where social media usage has gone rampant and outgoing party culture has become all the rage, tragic and violent situations will arise without warning and can be extremely detrimental to a person’s mental health and stability. When it comes to situations regarding rape and sexual assault, the after-effects on a victim can both be caused directly from the situation itself, but also from how others outside of the situation react to it as well. Therefore, I have listed five ways to end the perpetuation of rape and sexual assault culture and why they are necessary in affecting both the victim and preventing harmful situations in the future.
1. END VICTIM BLAMING/SHAMING
I can’t stress the importance of this point enough, simply because it is the leading way that rape culture is perpetuated. A sad truth is that many people, upon hearing about a rape or assault case, will immediately jump to asking questions that basically revolve around the idea that the victim was asking for it. Some of these questions can include, “Well what was the victim wearing? How much did they have to drink that night? Haven’t they said yes to their partner before?” All these questions do is invalidate the victim’s emotions and position in the situation and create the idea in their minds that it is their fault. Furthermore, victims have also been shamed for coming forward about their perpetrators because of how the consequences would affect the perpetrators life (ex. if the perpetrator was a successful athlete or someone of high status) and are further forced to believe that it was their fault they became a victim to rape/sexual assault. What needs to be remembered is that a rape or sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault and that the consequences of the perpetrator are a result of the crime they committed and not at the fault of the victim.
2. END THE STIGMA THAT “BOYS WILL BE BOYS”
This is a very important point that affects both male perpetrators and victims of sexual violence. An argument that many will use to defend male perpetrators is that men simply cannot help or tame their sexual desires and therefore can be excused for their actions simply because it’s in their nature. Furthermore, male victims will often times not be taken seriously (especially in cases where their perpetrator is a woman) because it is expected of men to enjoy any kind of sexual encounter simply because men are viewed by society as over sexual beings. I cannot stress enough that the idea of a man’s masculinity being defined by the amount of sexual encounters he has is not an excuse to force sexual encounters on another person or to defend a person for their actions. The idea that a man’s masculinity will also be tarnished if they come forward saying that they had an unwanted sexual experience must also be erased because that becomes extremely detrimental to a victim’s mental health and stability simply because they will feel guilty and looked down upon by others, especially in a male/masculine dominated society.
3. AROUSAL DOES NOT EQUAL CONSENT
As men are expected to enjoy and want all sexual encounters, victims of any gender may not be able to help showing signs of physical arousal even when the actions being done to them are unwanted. This arousal DOES NOT mean the actions are consensual. The only act of consent is a firm, mutual understanding that both partners want this sexual encounter and once the second one partner says “No” or “Stop”, it becomes non-consensual no matter the signs of physical arousal. Arousal is not a green light, and can not be controlled 100% in a victim’s position.
4. RELATIONSHIPS DO NOT EQUAL CONSENT
This point is an extremely important one because most cases of rape/sexual assault come from within a pre-established relationship. Partners can easily become victims to abuse due to the manipulation of one partner to another, making them believe that sexual pleasure is expected, deserved, and a right. No matter the length of a relationship or if a partner has consented to sexual encounters in the past with their partner, that person still has the right to say no to any sexual encounter and neither partner has a right to each other’s body. A relationship does not equal entitlement to a partner’s body or to sex at any time; consent must still be given.
5. ONLY YES = CONSENT
The only form of consent is a mutually understood “Yes” from all partners involved and it must be understood for each, individual encounter. This answer can change from time to time and if the answer is anything but yes (ex. no, silence, etc.) then a partner is non-consenting. Consent is absolutely mandatory, not sexy, mandatory. Consent is not something to be sugar coated, it is the one and only key thing to preventing sexual violence from happening.
These five points are extremely key in preventing sexual violence and also preventing outsiders of a sexually violent situation to understand and take the right actions in helping the victim. In doing this, it makes it clear the perpetrator’s actions are wrong and not to be defended, while ensuring it was not the victim’s fault. If these points are followed accordingly, change in how sexual violence cases are handled will be seen.