Holy internet, Batman!
A few days ago, I wrote a post. A post that in the days since, has had almost 30,000 views, has been shared tens of thousands of times, and spent some time in the WordPress list of Top Posts of the Day.
The feedback I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive. Sure, there are those who don’t agree with my opinions. And then there have been those who decided to send me messages filled with threats and vitriol.
I didn’t expect any of it. What has happened in the last few days far exceeded anything I could have imagine, and has crushed my previously-glorious record of 61 views on a particular post.
To each and every single person that shared, tweeted, commented (both supportive and not-so-supportive), talked about, and critiqued my post, I want to say thank you.
Thank you for joining what I think is an important discussion.
Thank for encouraging and inspiring me.
For too long now we’ve been having the wrong conversation when it comes to rape and sexual assault.
We’ve been telling people to dress in a certain way, to avoid certain areas and to change their behaviour to avoid rape. We’ve been sharing what seem to be “reasonable” suggestions of how we can ensure our personal safety.
Yet rape still occurs.
We know that 1 in 5 Australian women will experience sexual assault at some point in their life.
We know that women are disproportionately affected by sexual violence, representing over 80% of victims in Australia.
We know that male perpetrators of sexual assault far outweigh female perpetrators.
And we know that almost 80% of female victims know their perpetrator and most sexual assaults take place in a private dwelling.
So, the warnings to that woman to cover up, stay sober, and drive home instead going out drinking in a mini-skirt and walking home via a dark alley? They’re meaningless. She’s more likely be raped by her male housemate/boyfriend/friend when she gets home.
Knowing the facts, would we still consider it “reasonable” to tell women to alter their behaviour to reduce the risk of rape? Are we supposed to avoid people’s homes and males that we know? Our friends, our brothers, our boyfriends, our fathers?
I think not.
Women are raped while drunk or sober. They’re raped wearing mini-skirts and tracksuits. They’re raped in public areas and private homes. The only common factor is that they came into contact with a rapist.
We need to change the conversation.
We need to stop referring to all rapes and sexual assaults as “sex crimes” or “sex attacks”. Rape isn’t about sex. It’s about violence and power. Using the term “sex” diminishes the violent nature of sexual assault and implies some level of consent. Let’s call a spade a spade.
Let’s take the focus off of the victim and place it squarely where it belongs – on the perpetrator. Let’s call out media reports that use a passive voice when reporting sexual violence, placing victims at the forefront of the story and pushing the actions of the perpetrator into the background.
Let’s demand greater attention be paid to sexual assault and rape. Where are the calls for greater penalties for perpetrators? Where is the media coverage? Where are the comments from Prime Minister Tony Abbott (who also appointed himself Minister for Women) labelling rapes as “insidious”, or “utterly cowardly” as he has just done in relation to street violence? Why isn’t the PM calling for rapists to be treated with “appropriate severity”?
Let’s make sure that rapes get the same media attention and public outrage as “king hits”.
We can do it. All of us. Together, we can make a difference.
Let’s change the conversation.