By Katie Eichele
“Love liberates.” - Maya Angelou
I tell myself this when I’m faced with times where hearts are hurting, anger brews, and there’s an ache to be heard and understood. I also tell myself this when I have the responsibility as an educator to hold individuals accountable or to reflect on their behavior.
Recently, I was inundated with inquiries about an article written equating vandalism to rape culture. After reading it, I felt puzzled. I had questions. I took time to reach out to the writer to gain clarity and understand what the focus of the message was. The writer clarified two points for me. One: that the article wasn’t meant to trivialize rape. Two: that the writer wanted to draw parallels of victim blaming that occurred in the vandalism to victim blaming that often occurs in rape culture. After listening, we both agreed rape is serious. Before parting, I shared the impact of the article and how the objectives expressed by the writer were not effectively met. Vandalism and rape culture are not on the same platform. Rape culture is much more than just victim-blaming.
Rape culture includes unhealthy and damaging attitudes about gender and sexuality that are normalized in our society. Prominent and consistent behaviors that perpetuate rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denying the prevalence of rape, and refusing to acknowledge the severe harm caused by sexual violence.
Rape culture is having to sit everyday with females, males, and folks beyond the gender binary who have had their dignity and safety stripped away, their spirit killed, but then are expected to get up and get living.
Rape culture is having society tell you from childhood that your main value is your looks and body in order to fulfill someone else’s sexual gratification.
Rape culture is having to tell students, staff, faculty, and parents impacted by sexual violence, that trauma is a lifelong recovery process and that they won’t just get over it as others might tell them to.
Rape culture is much more than blaming the victim.
Days later, a video was released to the nation with comments that reinforce rape culture, but were coined as “locker room talk”. Overwhelmingly, people from all walks of life, have been able to recognize and name the comments as sexual assault and how they perpetuate rape culture.
People are speaking out.
People are sharing survivor stories.
People are calling for accountability.
People are trying to stop rape culture.
People are being heroes.
Maya Angelou also said, “a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”
Love does liberate.
Katie Eichele is the director of The Aurora Center for Advocacy & Education