Column: Ending rape culture starts with us

Gretchen Neal, Staff Reporter

Last week it was announced that Brock Turner, who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at a party, would be released from his ridiculously minimal six-month sentence early on good behavior.

The announcement and subsequent release lead to picketers and activists holding signs on Turner’s front lawn and spray-painted messages in the road labeling Turner a rapist. Even if Turner had gotten off easy with a light sentence and early release, he will have to deal with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life—plenty of activists want him dead, he will never be recognized by USA Swimming and he has earned a lifetime on the sex offender registry—which may bring some sense of hubris to the public, but it still is not enough.
When the victim stepped forward with her own address to Turner, the news was everywhere. Her letter to him was published on various websites, it inspired photography projects and awareness videos and it showcased, to anyone who knows how to work a computer, how common sexual assault is. The wide distribution of her message leads us to wonder why we have not seen a decline in sexual assault yet. While it is possible that this information is just new and it will take a while to stick with the public, something we should also consider is actively listening to these campaigns.

Rape culture is a serious issue in this society and we should treat it as such. This is not new information to anyone. None of us were born without a moral code, and there is nothing to be gained in assaulting someone. The sooner we address the multiple faucets that rape culture comes from, the sooner we can see the decrease in sex crimes.

We need to eliminate the stigma against sex and sexuality, end all forms of victim blaming, begin teaching sexual responsibility to all genders equally and acknowledge ourselves that we may be part of the problem.
Understand that the lack of a “yes” is always a “no.” Put away the mislead ideas about the “mood being ruined” by open communication. Know that the safety and security of all parties is what matters the most and prioritize that.

Understand that rape happens to all genders and stop forcing toxic masculinity onto young boys. Work together to fix the problem and do not try to decry others’ arguments over gender—yes, men do get raped and no, that does not invalidate the women who are also assaulted.

Support victims and believe them; the worst-case scenario is that someone over-exaggerated and you were wrong. Falsely accused people rarely go to jail—in fact, rightfully accused people rarely go to jail. In the event that you believe a victim that turns out to be lying, apologize and take the right legal steps to tell the truth. It is better than the alternative.

Be active and be loud in your support. Do not let casual talk go if someone uses victim-blaming rhetoric. If you make someone uncomfortable: good. Let them know that you are not comfortable walking alone at night, or drinking with friends or not having a weapon on you because something might happen, and, as experience has shown, there is a strong possibility that no one will pay for their crimes. There is a strong possibility that sexual assault will continue to happen.
Challenge the justice system that fails so many victims based on their attackers’ “potential.” Fight universities that cover up assaults. Join rallies, get involved and know your rights. Fund projects that are fighting rape culture and fund your local sexual assault counselors. Spread knowledge about sexual assault whenever the possibility presents itself. And please, stop making rape jokes. (Why do they even exist? No one finds them funny.)

The problem is not that there is not enough awareness for sexual assault. The problem is not that there are no resources or conversations. The problem is that no one—or at least, not enough people—is listening. We can promote better sex education and create a million videos on the meaning of consent, but the real change is going to occur with ourselves. It is everyone’s responsibility to do better.

Gretchen Neal is a senior English major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].