I think I was raped last night. The worst part is I’m not entirely sure. Playing the situation over and over again in my head I questioned my memory – ‘was I clear when I said no? How can I know for sure?’ When being constantly bombarded with non-stop assault has evolved to the level of it being seen as a ‘normal’ part of my daily life, I can’t help but consider that there could be something seriously wrong here. Sexual assault has become second nature, and we can’t even tell the difference. Catcalling on the street, I ignore it or laugh it off. Being felt up or touched in a public place is almost expected. It’s just your typical run-of-the-mill abuse. “It’s alright love, shrug it off”. I am becoming increasingly aware of my disgusting complacency to rape culture, and it has to stop.
The issue here is that #metoo applies to everyone. In Australia the United Nations revealed that 92 people per 100,000 of the population have reported sexual assault. However, according to data collected by the Australian Institute of Criminology approximately 70 percent of sexual assault cases are not reported to the police. Basically every single woman (non-binary and trans inclusive) has been a victim of sexual assault at some point in their life, whether they are aware of it or not. Let’s stop analyzing the victims and start making an example out of the perpetrators. Woody Allen stated his concerns that this was going to turn into “a witch hunt atmosphere” where “every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself”. Well, maybe that’s exactly what we need. An opportunity to call out the behaviour of every single man who looks at, or treats a woman inappropriately. This is a chance to realign our society with the correct values and defy rape culture; to teach the youth how to address women as equals, to ingrain the vital mantra that they never should have been viewed as lesser beings in the first place.
One of the most significantly important things to understand about sexual assault or abuse is that it can happen to anyone. Yes it can happen to married folk, or people in committed relationships. Dating someone does not give that person an exclusive right to use their partner’s body as they please. Marital immunity for rape needs to end worldwide now. Yes, it can happen to sex workers, and to those who have been paid for a sexual exchange. No, an exchange of money does not mean that you now own that person’s body, to use and abuse, as you may like. It is a dangerous landslide when the ideology is perpetuated that sexual assault can only happen to certain people, in certain situations. The harsh reality is that there is no safe ‘assault-free zone’. It can happen to anyone, regardless of relationship status or occupation.
“That’s what I thought you wanted”. Victim blaming. If there is no consent then the onus of responsibility is entirely on the perpetrator. No means no buddy, for a reason. It’s not open to interpretation; it’s not a loose indication of what is meant. It means, plainly and simply, no (or fuck off if they really don’t get the message).
How you respond to a victim of abuse is also crucial. Creating a safe environment where they don’t feel judged or vilified will assist in making the recovery process a lot smoother. After a close friend of mine revealed that she had been raped to her partner, she was met with an angry accusation of ‘but were you flirting with him?’ Because flirting is a green light for sexual abuse. If a woman leads a guy on it’s only to be expected that he will react with his base caveman instincts and pounce. Boys will be boys, right?
The exposé of Harvey Weinstein is just the beginning. How is it possible that after numerous women came forward with claims against Trump that he was still elected as president? Even when cold hard evidence was brought to light that displayed the presidential candidate grossly bragging about abusing women ‘grabbing them by the pussy’, that he was still able to win the popular vote? Because, the harsh truth is, society doesn’t care. It would rather maintain it’s sexist patriarchal hierarchy than integrate change and break the fucking glass ceiling. Trump has too much power, too many ‘friends’ in high places for a silly scandal like abuse against women to drop him out of the game, unless the system wanted to let him.
Weinstein’s downfall was systematic; it was planned and carefully put together. Why has it taken this long for the truth to be revealed? Because Hollywood didn’t want it to be exposed. Weinstein had a clause in his contract with The Weinstein Company stating that he could get sued repeatedly for sexual misconduct, as long as he was able to fork out the money for the settlements. For the amount of people that knew, that assisted in covering it up for decades, for the traces and trails of hints and outright statements that were made against the guy, and yet, somehow, all these years nothing was done. Why?
There is a greater force at play here, one that is covering up something much more powerful and significant. The reveal of Harvey Weinstein isn’t Hollywood being ‘woke’ or finally bringing to light the issue of ingrained sexism and abuse. It’s timing. It’s a perfectly organized scheme wrapped in the guise of progress.
Despite the questionable intentions that lie behind one of Hollywood’s biggest sexual assault exposés, a ripple effect has begun, and the entire world is feeling the waves. Hollywood is under scrutiny, with over 40 women and counting having come forward with claims against Weinstein, while those who knew about the abuse are publicly being brought to trial. Meanwhile in Europe, the French government has responded swiftly, introducing a bill that scrutinizes sexual harassment, including fines for sexually harassing a woman on the street.
I for one do not want to be left behind in the blind masses. I don’t want to have to second guess myself, question if my body has been violated or not, because maybe, just maybe I indicated yes. I want to feel confident to say no, without letting the fear of exercising that right hinder me, or possibly jeopardising my career or status. I refuse to just sit back and accept that rape culture is an inevitable part of our society, and concede to being forever enslaved by the patriarchy. If we band together and acknowledge that sexual assault isn’t just a ‘woman’s issue’, it is a human issue, then perhaps real change can happen. It is not the responsibility of the victims to solve rape culture; society has to be accountable for dismantling what has been ingrained in our minds since the dawning of mankind. No more one-sided hashtags, the issue has to be solved from its roots. The time has come to plant new seeds.
Written by Sahar Nicolette.