Trigger warning: discussion of sexual abuse.
When cases like Penn State become news it so often seems that public reaction is about everyone except the survivors. And in the midst of all the discussion of what was done and was could or should have been done, there’s little often little time taken to consider what we can do now, and in the future.
I include myself in this criticism. Part of me thinks that it’s some kind of ritualized catharsis, where venting outrage about abuses made public is more about managing fears and anxieties – to assert some measure of control over the terrifying reality of widespread abuse. And a lot of it also seems to be about creating distance between ourselves and people who abuse, or enable abuse – the language of monstrosity, for example, that is so often used to describe child molesters. I understand why we do it and there’s probably some kind of collective psychological utility or purpose to it, but by itself it’s not quite adequate.
Here are a few things I think we can do:
– As with any kind of violence and oppression centering the voices of people who experience it is paramount. It’s hard to speak about abuse openly. We can counter the damage done by pro rape apologism demonstrations by not silencing survivors, by listening when they speak, by believing them.
– Be informed about organizations that offer support to survivors. The National Sexual Assault hotline is free, confidential, and staffed round the clock [1.800.656.HOPE(4673)]. Let’s find out where our local rape crisis shelters or women’s shelters are. If we can, find out how we can help or support them. Let’s ask what they’re doing to provide services to trans women, queer and gender nonconforming youth, nonbinary people, and queer women, who are often underserved populations, but disproportionately at risk of assault and sexualized violence.
– Be aware of the particular stigma that’s attached to male survivors of rape and assault and prepared to point them to resources where they can speak with other male survivors and get support, like 1in6.org.
I got to thinking about this after my twitter friend and AWH reader APBBlue tweeted urging people outraged by Penn State’s rape enabling to donate to or volunteer for RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). I’m grateful to her for that spur to concrete action. I signed up to volunteer with RAINN today.
What are some of your thoughts on what we can concretely do to change the culture around issues of abuse? Please share them in the comments.