April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. On the University of Arizona campus we intensify our constant efforts to raise awareness of not only sexual violence but of the overall rape culture that supports such violence. Rape culture refers to the manner in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence. These attitudes often take the form of victim blaming.
Just last week we held our Take Back the Night march and rally. With music, speakers, a resource fair, and an open mike survivor speak out, this was a moving and powerful event. I was so proud of all the survivors who spoke their truth and of the audience that held them with such compassion and support. It was truly an empowering and remarkable evening.
In the midst of this, we encountered a reminder of why we do what we do. A specific example of rape culture victim blaming messages was presented. Often these are more subtle and insidious. Last week it was very overt and blatant. I don’t want to repost the image of the hateful sign here; that image has already gotten too much visibility and is of course potentially triggering for trauma survivors. In addition, we know that this is just one example of the larger problem: sexual violence continues to be blamed on those who experience it.
This is in no way reality. Clothing choices do not cause rape. The appearance or behavior of the victim does not cause rape. Only by putting responsibility where it really belongs, on those who commit acts of violence and abuse, can we start to break this cycle. That means looking at the larger cultural issues that create and protect rapists/abusers.
It also means acknowledging that most men are not abusers, and in fact can become engaged, active bystanders who work towards violence prevention. Here is what some University of Arizona men have to say about sexual assault:
What can you do to be part of the solution, to work towards healing and empowerment for survivors? Come to a counter-protest next Tuesday, April 30. Help us demonstrate that love and compassion are stronger than ignorance and hate. Let’s reinforce the idea that what all of us really deserve is to be free from violence!
In response to this appalling event, The Women’s Interests Collaborative would like to propose a counter-protest. Please join us to show that UA is a community of love, inclusion, and support.
Join faculty, staff, and students to tell the world what we think “You Deserve…” at UA!
Tuesday, April 30th from 11am-1pm
Alumni Plaza (in front of the Administration Building, between Modern Languages and the Student Union.)
Stop by Heritage Hill to make your positive sign, with the interns of FORCE and The Men’s Project. Then take your stand in Alumni Plaza, holding your sign and facing the mall!