by Megan Stubbs
With current statistics reporting that 1 in 6 women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape, it is imperative that we start speaking out against this horrendous crime and start advocating for education around consent and bystander intervention.
When the article about the ‘roofie-detecting nail polish’ made its way around social media like wildfire, everyone was thrilled. How ingenious! What a great idea! Better luck next time, rapists! Yet, this is not something we need. Of course, the four male college students who invented the product did so with sincerity, but much like an unwanted Band-Aid floating in a pool, it seems gross and doesn’t address the much larger issue.
We need to teach people not to rape! It is as simple and as difficult as that. We don’t need electrified bras to thwart assailants or to dip our fingers in our drinks to activate nail polish to detect would-be attackers. Not only does this place all of the pressure of sexual assault prevention on the woman, it also opens the door to victim blaming if the woman didn’t ‘adequately’ protect herself. We shouldn’t have to live in a world where we have to don tactical anti-rape gear to enjoy a night out with our friends.
Education emphasizing consent and bystander intervention can shift these statistics drastically. Consent is the permission for something to happen or the agreement to do something. It can be given, and it can be taken away at any point. Consent is not an unbreakable contract and cannot be given under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Most important to note, the absence of a “no” is not a “yes.”
With that in mind, education also starts to shift the idea of what sexual assault can look like. Sexual assault doesn’t have to be in a dark alley, with a panel van and a masked assailant; on college campuses, 80-90 percent of victims know their attacker. We need to move away from the belief that it is rape only if someone is violently forced into sex. No matter the scenario, the fact of not consenting to an act is by definition rape.
Bystander Intervention is a philosophy and strategy for prevention of various types of violence, including bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault and intimate partner violence. If you are out and you see someone in an incapacitated state, help them. We have all been there or at least know someone who has been there. Most of us have been both the woman vomiting and the woman helping another woman get home safely. This isn’t about blame. “You shouldn’t have had so much to drink.” “You shouldn’t have been wearing that skirt.” “You shouldn’t have been out so late.” Regardless of how a person ended up in that position, as good bystanders, they deserve our compassion and help if necessary. We know about risk reduction, and there are calculated risks that we see worth taking. That isn’t shameful—that is human. If you see someone trying to take advantage of someone who is in a compromised position, step in.
While April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it is crucial that we continue this conversation throughout the month, the year and the rest of our lives. Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Of those, 60% of women will not report the crime. How long did it take you to read this article? We owe it to our communities to eradicate sexual assault and rape and the stigma behind reporting it, and to let those who would willingly violate someone’s rights know that we will not tolerate it.