Be Someone That Helps, Not Ignores

*BIG TRIGGER Warning with this video…depicts events leading up to a sexual assault*

This video comes from New Zealand, and is a great depiction of what bystanders can do if they witness something suspicious. Rape should ultimately be avoided by people not raping and not taking advantage of another. However, if the situation arises, others can and should step in.
Let’s step up and look out for each other.

Valentine’s Fight at the Bus Stop

First off, I hope you don’t think it’s too selfish to be sharing this story, but it just happened and I need to get it off my chest…

As I was walking to the bus stop after leaving my internship at the YWCA tonight, I hear a group of 18ish year old guys yelling at a couple of girls in their dorm across the street.

One of the guys yells, “…go suck your dick of the day you whore”.
In the middle of my response of “Fuck you for saying that and thinking of women that way”, I worried about whether or not to be talking to these jerks. Luckily they were just shocked that I said anything at all.

The same one that yelled that horrible thing then said, “How can I respect them if they don’t respect themselves? I respect you because you’re actually speaking up.”This is when my heart started racing. So I made it a point to *try* to be very level headed and speak to them firmly without sounding overly preachy (or something).

I said, “I’m lucky to feel comfortable enough to speak up but you shouldn’t just respect me, you should respect any and everyone. You have no idea what people are going through or have gone through, so try not to treat them like shit and just respect them.”

Then I walked away and decided not to even look at them anymore, anxiously waiting for our bus to arrive.

Once on the bus I overheard them talking about me not having had sex in a year or some shit, so I put my headphones in and peacefully went home.

This rape culture is everywhere where men like these not only disrespect women, but expect sex from them. If it’s given to them readily, they label them as ‘whores’, if they speak up or hold out, they’re labeled as bitches and assumed their lives lack sex. Who can win?

Semantics Are Important to a Rape Survivor

According to RAINN, Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object. Sexual Assault is unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling. (But, be aware: Some states use this term interchangeably with rape.)

After Lydia Cuomo was brutally raped by a police officer in New York City, she understood that semantics matter. (Although the title of this article could be read as mocking her.)

After being orally, anally, and vaginally raped, the state of New York told her that she wasn’t raped due to initially finding the officer not guilty on the vaginal rape. (New York’s definition of rape requires vaginal penetration.) So she paired with Representative Catharine Young, and spoke out, identifying herself to all kinds of media outlets. They lobbied for the Rape is Rape bill, fighting for the same punishment for oral and anal rape, as vaginal rape.

They got so far, just for Rep. Young to get cold feet and back out of the bill because she was worried rapists may not be convicted under the new law. What??

A disappointed Cuomo continued to speak up and said:

“It’s semantics, but semantics are really important . … As a survivor, hearing the word solidifies what you went through and helps you to move on.”

Not only is Cuomo doing so much good for herself, but she’s trying to help others heal and understand their own experiences. What a wonderful woman.

Survivor Art Show

I’m in the process of planning an art show for April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Chicago. The show will consist of work by survivors, responding to their recovery and emotions, and I’m in the process of accepting work to be in the show.
Please visit this link for more info if you’re interested in submitting work.
If you’re not in the Chicago area, you can always mail your work.
Hope to hear from some of you!

The Part of Running This Campaign I Didn’t Expect

When I first started the website for End Rape Culture and decided to print stickers, I knew by speaking out against victim blaming, the protection of the rapist, and the way our society views rape was going to invite people to argue with what I am doing. I knew this going in.

However, it was still a shock to receive the backlash. It included people saying that rape culture is made up (which is what I was expecting the most), as well as people saying feminism is the root of all evil. It also introduced me to lovely little hate group: MRAs. Men’s Rights Activists. They attacked my website, Facebook, and sent messages attacking me personally. For a few days there it was really intense and I wrote a post titled ‘I Will Not Stop Fighting’ in response. If you see the comments to that post you can read a few of the arguments I was getting.

Since then, the arguments and hurtful comments from MRAs and others have lightened up significantly. But about every month or so, I get a troller on Facebook just looking for a fight. I have often asked myself where to draw the line. I don’t want to delete every comment and argument that challenges my own beliefs. But I have banned users just for the sake of trolling: commenting on every single post I have just to be seen. This isn’t productive and they’re not going to engage me in a conversation by being a bully.

Yesterday a man started commenting for the second time on multiple posts. The first time he commented making fun of feminists, I clicked on his profile basically to see if it were worth spending the time to have a conversation. I saw that almost every day he bragged about getting banned from another feminist page or website. So I stayed away and decided not to give him the pleasure of another banned site. Then after his second visit I decided to speak up and try to explain to him the purpose of my website. See, he wasn’t just questioning rape culture, he was saying that victim blaming is a valid action. After giving examples of victim blaming: “why were you out so late? What were you wearing? Why were you drinking so much?”, etc… he said:

That is your argument…people asking sensible questions…
Life is unfair for everyone, but the elite.
Women are responsible for their actions and when they go out late in bad neighborhoods alone when they don’t know proper self-defense and awareness, opportunists will take advantage of their stupidity.

Whoa.

Then a woman (who I’m fairly certain was a friend of this man) joined in asking about rape culture, mocking it and feminists. They both said that feminists are “killing our culture by telling our girls that they are victims and telling our boys that they are evil oppressors”.
So if any group of people speaks out against the oppression that occurs towards them, then they are playing the victim? Try making that case against the people of color that marched in DC to fight for civil rights.
So I argued their ridiculous views, and the girl said:

I’m just stating something. It’s not like someone just raped you. Don’t get butthurt.

And that’s where I drew the line and blocked them both.
This is why we need to fight rape culture and give survivors the support they deserve.

Please continue to send me photos of your answers to ‘How do you fight against rape culture?’
I’d love to see them. Thanks.

How Recent Headlines Regarding Rape Pushed Me to Continue to Speak Up

As I’ve taken some time away from my blog for a little while, a ton of terrible events have unfortunately transpired over the last couple weeks:

The Violence Against Women Act has expired for the first time since 1994.

More protests have taken place in India, as well as across the globe from the brutal rape and death of a woman in New Dehli.

An ancient California law was dug up to overturn the conviction of a man who raped a woman because she wasn’t married.

Two LA police officers threatened women with jail time if they didn’t agree to sexual favors.

The Steubenville rape case gained more attention with the anonymous leak of a video of multiple boys joking and bragging about the rape they took part in. Warning: the video is unbearable. After less than a minute I had to turn it off.

Ughhhh

The fact that all of these stories were headlines and/or events that happened just in the last week or two is sickening. Honestly, I could’ve written 5 posts a day responding, criticizing and reviewing these events and the articles that came out about them. But, I was overwhelmed to say the least. I didn’t even visit my regular feminist blogs on a daily basis. It was all too much.

Then, I received an email with a link to a tumblr that posted a photo of one of my stickers in Chicago…with over 400 notes. (!!!)

And then I saw that one of my favorite feminists, Jessica Valenti wrote an article over at the Nation about America’s rape problem. And I became inspired to speak out once again. I was stuck in the post-vacation blues and needed a jolt out of it.

Valenti goes through some of the terrible events surrounding rape that have happened in the last 6 months or so, and shifts the focus back to the culture of America.

In addition to American culture, everyone should take a look at their environment and ask why we believe the myths that run rampant when it comes to rape. Is it because we actually believe them? Or is it because we’re so programmed to act, believe, and expect the things we’re told? Living in a misogynistic and victim blaming world takes a toll on the brave survivors of sexual assault. They’re constantly being second guessed and misunderstood about their actions, emotions and lives in general. It’s time to stand up for THEM. Let all of the awful headlines regarding rape be that jolt to speak up for survivors and against rape culture.

Invisible War Documentary

I just finished watching the documentary, Invisible War. It takes a deep look into rape in the military: not only that it’s prevalent, but how awful the survivors are treated while the perpetrators are protected.
A few incredibly brave survivors are highlighted and speak out against their treatment by telling their stories.
It’s an absolute must see and was recently added to Netflix Instant!
Visit the sites for the movie here and here.

Happy Holidays!

I hope your holiday season has been as relaxing as possible. I know this time of year can be extremely stressful, but I wanted to take a moment to say thank you for being supportive of my blog, campaign, and fighting rape culture. You mean so much to me for reading and responding to my thoughts and passions.

Please take the time to tell your friends and/or family that support you how much their support means to you.

And to the fellow rape survivors out there, you are the strongest and bravest people I know. Your strength inspires and motivates me more than you know. Keep living and continuing to heal. You’ll reach a point where your trauma does not follow you around every day, but merely be something of your past that you’re able to recall without flashback. Keep working, keep being brave, and continue to share your experiences. You never know who you may inspire to continue to heal.

Happy holidays.