We’re only about a week into the new year, and already we’ve been overwhelmed with conversations about rape and sexual assault. Congress was unable to renew the Violence Against Women Act, a bill which would have extended protections to immigrant and Native American women and members of the LGBTQ community. A 23-year-old medical student was gang raped on a moving bus in New Delhi and has since passed away, igniting outrage and protest in a country notorious for sexual assaults and violence against women. A small Ohio town saw a 16-year-old woman gang raped by numerous members of the local high school football team, during which she was photographed, videotaped, and urinated on, all while she was in and out of consciousness.
Writers, feminists, activists, humans all over the country and the world are taking action. An article published by Soraya Chemaly in the Huffington Post goes into deeper detail about recent violence against women and is part of a larger movement demanding and inciting change.
Although I would genuinely like to think that globally we are at a strategic inflection point in regards to violence against women, I have grave doubts. As Jessica Valenti points out, we have a rape problem, but we stubbornly “refuse to admit it.” In the past few weeks of media coverage and conversation, the subtext that “we’re better than that here,” and that India’s “misogyny” and “patriarchy” are somehow unique to India has been unsettling for its suggestion that “we’re just fine” and “women here have nothing to complain about.” We’d rather fixate on the superficial aspects, like “social media,” a tool, not a cause. Or on how desperately an Ohio town needs its football to feel ok about itself. Remember, we can’t even elect people who will reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
She links to an article by Lauren Wolfe, a writer for CNN who calls for 2013 to be the year we end rape culture. So what does that mean for us, for educators, for people who see this and live this every day, and who are working to make change? We’ve been blogging, performing, teaching, listening, but we can do more. We must do more. And we must all do it. Sexual assault and sexual violence is not just a woman’s problem, it’s not just a college problem. As we say in Speak About It,
They say that one out of every four college women experiences attempted or completed sexual assault. But this number misrepresents the number affected by it. Because for every person who is assaulted, there are ten times as many people who are affected by it. Who through being close to that person, feel it’s life-changing effects.
This means that everyone has a story, a story about sexual assault, about being an active bystander, about surviving. No one’s story is too small or too unimportant. This is the time where we raise our voices, we tell our stories, we educate our peers. But it’s going to take all of us, every gender, every background, every experience, every person. In 2013, we will work to end rape culture.