Dismantling rape culture starts with dialogue and inclusivity

Stella Schwartzman, Contributor

After reading an Instagram post from a girl who was recently sexually assaulted, I took to Instagram to post my raw and unfiltered thoughts. I was angry and full of rage. Every day, I see another headline about a girl who was taken advantage of by a man, then seeks justice and fails to receive it. Beyond that, Brett Kavanaugh, who was nominated by President Trump to sit on the Supreme Court, was recently accused of sexual assault.  

The combination of his potential confirmation irregardless of the allegations against him, and the story I heard pushed me over the edge, inspiring me to post on Instagram. My message was simple: it is time we hold people accountable for the ways they contribute to rape culture, no matter who they are. The only way we end rape culture is by having men listen to women and believe women. This conversation is how we make progress.

Immediately, the post was met with positive comments and support from both girls and boys who understood what I was saying. But of course, it was flooded with angry comments from boys as well.

A huge part of ending rape culture is ending complicity and normalization. Being complicit allows those contributing to rape culture to continue. If we hear or see something disrespectful, we must call that person out on it. It is not okay to speak of women like they are objects for you to claim, or suggest that they only exist for your taking. This constant normalization of how men can speak of women aids in the degradation of women and the continuation of rape culture.

A lot of progress has been made since the #MeToo movement entered mainstream media, but a lot has remained unchanged. It is time we believe women, and men, when they are brave enough to step forward and share their stories of sexual assault. Nobody should be able to tell someone if their experience matters or not; if it was real; if it was their fault or not. Because it wasn’t. No one can invalidate a survivor’s trauma, especially people who have never experienced sexual assault. No one who is sexually assaulted or harassed asked for it.

It does not matter how long your skirt is, or your body type, age, or amount of alcohol you have consumed. Having consensual sexual interactions is important! No means no. Inebriation means no. Unconsciousness means no. Coercion means no. There is nothing consensual about, “Please! Please, just one time. Just one time! You owe me!” and then, “Fine.” Enthusiasm is important, and if it’s lacking, reassess the situation.

Every woman I know has been sexually harassed if not assaulted. Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” by The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This includes catcalling, inappropriate questions, or quick touches. On the other hand sexual assault is defined as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” by the U.S. Department of Justice.

When I posted, I wish the boys who were angry had read my post with an open mind. If they had, maybe they would have gotten something out of it. Instead, everyone jumps to defense mechanisms. The only way to cure ignorance is with education.

It is important to call out people in your life who disrespect you or are problematic. I am not afraid to do this, and you shouldn’t be either. The only way we grow is by learning, and the only way we learn is by making a mistake or listening. If you were upset about my post, you are more or less part of the problem. But that does not mean you will always be. I want these ignorant boys to learn something; that they messed up, but they can change the way they think and what they do. We, as women, deserve to be listened to, we deserve justice, and we deserve equality across the board. If you have faced sexual assault/of harassment, you are a survivor, you are strong, and you deserve to be here. No matter the circumstance, it is never your fault and you should never be ignored.