Working Together: How to educate each other to stop sexual abuse and harassment

May 18th, 2016 by Avital Benedek

Rape culture. This term has been entering the realm more and more frequently. Slowly, efforts from social justice campaigns to stop sexual abuse and violence have been making their way into mainstream media. However, with every great step forward, we see backlash, blame-placing, and resistance. Sexual abuse and sexual harassment affects all individuals. Folks who identify as women, the most common victims of such assaults, are traumatized from both overt and subtle displays of abuse. Folks who identify as men, are most often the overt perpetrators, but also contribute to the subtle perpetuation of sexual harassment and abuse.

So quick we are to find offense or error when we are told we have wronged. We revert to a childish reaction, “no I didn’t!”, even if we did. In order to move forward in this world, in order to alleviate the trauma and the re-traumatization we inflict on one another, we have to move past the guilt, and work towards change. The World Wide Transformational Summit is most often used as a way to find self-help, self-fulfillment, and self-growth. However, we must not forget that in order to be healthy in this world, we must take what we learn, and understand we also have a responsibility to help heal our communities.

So what is “Rape Culture?”

The idea of rape culture dates back to the 70s, a theory introduced by the feminist movement to explain why 99% of rape victims were women. Today, we understand rape culture as the pervasive violent and objectifying attitudes we hold as culture that normalizes, condones, and perpetuates rape, sexual violence, and sexual harassment. Now, this is the part where many struggle. For many men who don’t have a violent temperament or a history of violating women, they feel as though they can’t be categorized as contributing to such a culture. Women, often have a hard time identifying as a feminist because of its negative associations, or because they themselves may have never experienced sexual violence.

But rape culture is ubiquitous and can be subtle (and often incredibly obvious.) To understand how we can work together, consider this your guide:

  1. Be Aware of Entertainment

Think about popular songs like, “Blurred Lines” or even the beloved Christmas classic, “Baby it’s cold outside.” The lyrics suggest consent is debatable and “no” actually means “yes.” We have always been fed love stories of women rejecting kisses, and the men pulling them in fast and tight to steal a kiss. This is damaging for the safety of women, but also the media and entertainment puts unbelievable pressure on men to act to a certain level of masculinity.

Popular memes and popular hashtags (#itaintrape) make jokes out of rape, both theoretical and in instances of specific sexual assault. It continues to send the message that women and their experiences are not to be healed, but to be discarded and chastised.

  1. Stop Shaming and Blaming

The fact that “she was asking for it” is still used as a viable counter-argument against rape cases made public, blows my mind. Together, we need to hold our culture accountable to this. Just like in healing with EFT and Somatic Exercising, when survivors and victims’ unlearn their misplaced self-blame, we must work to eliminate this shaming in the public sphere of victims of sexual violence. We must learn to make consent the common narrative.

  1. Create a Concerned and Supportive Environment

Far too often, survivors and victims’ do not report their assailants for fear of shaming, public scrutiny, and commonly for fear of not being believed or taken seriously; often because of the  number 2 (blaming the victim). Hundreds of universities have only recently begun to update their sexual violence policies, and many were exposed, like MSU, for mishandling many of the cases on their campuses.

  1. Adjust Our Street Behavior

When an individual expresses frustration, discomfort, or feeling unsafe, we should not disregard it. They should not be told to brush it off. Violent spoken language and body language is everywhere. Men are told that is how they demonstrate masculinity. And women are told to enjoy it because it is just a “compliment.” We should learn to trust our companions to be able to understand what is safe or unsafe.

Street Harassment is one of the most pervasive forms of sexual violence and rape culture. Yet, it is completely avoidable. If we confront the stereotypes and pressures of societal expectations, we can eliminate the demonstrations of masculinity, harassment, and objectification on the streets.

  1. Take a stand

Lisa Nichols explains that we are often inundated with our self-perception and self-worth before we are even born. Women live in a world when before they can even speak, they are expected to present a certain way to society. How can we expect for survivors to see themselves as strong individuals when politicians are legitimizing rape. We must support our companions and peers in adjusting their behavior and mindset to help create a more comforting and healthy environment.

We must teach our peers and children the true effects of using violent and demeaning language like “slut.” Teach them how to respect their fellow peers as well. Teach each other what consent looks like. What positive relationships look like.

Sexual violence and the traumas that come from such a culture of violence is not an inherent quality in our world. If healing techniques like Emotional Freedom Technique, Theta Healing, Somatic Experiencing, or Matrix Reimprinting, can help individuals transform and heal from trauma, they can help us change our peers and our environment.

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