Sexual violence is a pervasive and serious issue, and one that has significant impact on victims, survivors, their families, and our communities. 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted and/or raped in their lifetime. The words we use have lasting impact, and the way we talk about sexual violence, victims and people who perpetrate acts of sexual violence matters. We can create environments that are supportive to survivors or we can create environments that are hostile and unsafe. The practices of victim blaming, “slut-shaming”, and a “boys-will-be-boys” mind-set do the latter. These harmful responses to disclosures of sexual violence create feelings of shame and fear for the victims and work actively to keep them silent, and in turn protects the perpetrators and inhibits actual justice.
When people around us, especially those in respected or highly visible positions, use language that is demeaning to women, make sexually charged jokes or casually brag about touching women without their consent, it normalizes the actions and therefore normalizes rape culture.
Rape culture is a term used to show the ways in which society minimizes sexual violence, blames victims of sexual assault and normalizes sexual exploitation and violence by males. Minimizing or blaming comments also are rooted in male sexual entitlement, which is a theme we’ve seen evidenced in recent high-profile cases including those involving Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, NBA star Derrick Rose. A person’s status, occupation and/or reputation does not negate their ability to commit acts of sexual assault.
Often victims of sexual violence do not want to believe, or admit to themselves, that they were violated in such a horrific way. So, why would they want to admit it to the world knowing they will be met with ridicule or targeted as an attention seeker? Frequently, survivors remain silent until they feel a time has come that they will be believed, supported, and have a chance at justice. Some wonder why so many women bring forth allegations all around the same time. Well, there is strength in numbers when facing a situation where the cards are already stacked against you. If a perpetrator has victimized multiple individuals, once one comes forward the others may feel confident that their story will be believed as well.
When you hear others shame and discredit sexual violence victims for coming forward, remember the reasons why coming forward can be difficult for victims. Every conversation that conveys damaging or threatening views toward victims, in turn allows sexual violence to thrive. Don’t be a part of the problem, use your voice to stand with victims and survivors.
If you or someone you love has been impacted by sexual violence, our 24/7 hotline (570) 421-4200 is available to you.
Women’s Resources of Monroe County has provided over 36 years of safe emergency shelter, 24-hour crisis hotline, support, counseling, education, legal advocacy, and community outreach to Monroe County victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. All services are FREE and CONFIDENTIAL. The 24-hour crisis hotline can be reached at 570-421-4200. To learn more about Women’s Resources of Monroe County, please visit www.wrmonroe.org.