Content Warning(s): Rape, Victim-Blaming
Hello everyone! If you're unaware, April is Sexual Assault Survivor Month. (It always has been; don't let the POTUS's proclamation make you believe he invented it.) Every day this month, I'd like to share something related to the topic of sexual assault in honor of awareness. As a warning, these posts will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you. A final caveat: these are written from my limited perspective as a bi woman who was raped. I don't have all the answers and I'm still working through my own journey. There are many other kinds of sexual assault and abuse that are relevant this month. Take time to consider the needs of your diverse fellow survivors. Speak up for them when they can't speak up for themselves, but don't speak over them. Our stories are our most important weapon! Thank you for your ongoing patience and support.
This meme has recently circulated on social media. On the surface, it seems like advice: "if you're in this bad situation, here's a self-defense solution." But it bothered me, so I unpacked it a bit further.
To start, the concept of an all-girls high school having a "date rape class." What were the contents of this class? Self-defense technique isn't mentioned beyond this one scenario, but I couldn't imagine they're talking about a dedicated gym-class setting to learning effective self defense. Secondly, if girls are given a "date rape class," the message of which being "learn how not to get raped," why aren't boys given a "don't rape" class? Why isn't EVERYONE given a "don't rape" class? Thirdly, the concept of date rape itself. There's a myth that rapists are either someone who pulls you into a dark alley OR someone who takes you on a formal date and spikes your drink or otherwise coerces you into sex. I know firsthand that this is harmful. I didn't expect someone I considered to be a long-time friend to be my rapist and I suffered for a long time knowing that nobody would believe me. Next: it'd be nice if the thing he grabbed was your knee. Especially if it's someone you're on a "date" with (or, y'know, if you're willingly in their company), you might be at a stage where various levels of touching are okay. You might want this person to hug you. Maybe you even flirt with this person and it's fun until they take it too far. But there are so many more places that can be touched without consent than a knee; for this technique to be effective, it would have to happen exactly as pictured. I sincerely doubt a high schooler would do it just like that. Now, this that got to me even more. The message here is "break his finger so they believe you in court"--if it's someone you're willingly around, if it's a friend, you won't WANT to break their finger, much less take them to court. The thing about rape (or attempted assault) is that it's about power. If people know you're willingly with this person, they may already doubt your claims. If you injure this person and it doesn't escalate beyond that, the picture from them is, "You broke my finger! I didn't do anything and I wasn't going to!" Now YOU'RE the liar. Even then, suppose you couldn't do it; suppose the injury was less severe. What this series of pictures is saying is, "Break his finger or you aren't defending yourself enough, which means you were asking for it." This is victim-blaming.
When I think about what happened to me and how I wouldn't have wanted to hurt my rapist, this message is especially painful. It's graphics like these that spread the myths of rape culture and delay treatment in survivors. Next time you see a "tip" about "date rape" or other forms of assault or harassment, please consider the underlying message.
Thanks for reading! Tomorrow's topic will be about the concept of "triggers."
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