Whether it was because of the horrendously short prison sentence received by Brock Turner, the rapist in the Stanford rape case, or the intensely beautiful, brutal, brave letter read to Turner by his victim, the court case will now be one of the defining moments of 2016. It's attracted huge media attention, rage across all forms of social media, intense discussions in politics, and pledges to do better. But, like all media storms, it is gradually draining away, quickly overshadowed by new atrocities. The conversation started by Brock Turner's survivor has been an extremely positive, angry, powerful one: how can we keep it going?
It's not as simple as just talking about it long after the cameras have gone home. Turner will go to jail, the think pieces will dry up, the victim will wake up every day with her unbelievable burden, and we'll all wonder what else there is to say. To engage with rape culture on a constant and vigilant basis means being attentive. It means listening to the way people talk about rape, about sexual assault, about victims and perpetrators, about deserving it and safety, and what affirmative consent actually means.
Want to know how to continue the conversation Brock Turner survivor started? Here's a primer. Let's keep this anger and bewilderment going long after Turner's unspeakable mug has faded from our mind's eye.
1. Keep Calling Out Rape Culture
What is "rape culture"? It is, at essence, a culture that interrogates how a victim could possibly let themselves get raped (or, worse, invite it) rather than interrogating how a rapist could decide to rape somebody. An excellent working definition comes from Women Against Violence, which is "the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence." And it shows its ugly face every day, in the way that mainstream media focuses on the "bright careers" of accused rapists rather than the ruined psychological futures of their victims, in the way that people comb through the actions of a rape victim despite the fact that nothing excuses or condones or invites rape. Not clothing, not drunkenness, not walking down a dark alleyway at night, not being flirty, not anything.
2. Believe Victims
3. Spread The Sexual Assault Statistics
Part of the difficulty with rape culture, I think, is that it often feels vaguely foreign. It doesn't happen to "nice girls," or "well-behaved boys," or "in the place where I grew up". Even if you don't feel that way, I can predict that some people around you do, which is why knowing the statistics about sexual assault in the United States, and being open about them to as many people as possible, is a vital part of the conversation.
4. Focus Worldwide
5. Be Prepared To Encounter Boredom And Resistance
As the Orlando massacre this weekend has emphasized, there is never a shortage of tragic, bitter, horrible events to crowd the consciousness of the modern person casually reading the news. The problem with this cavalcade of horror is that it's easy to forget what is, technically, "yesterday's news". Keeping the idea of rape culture and its corrosive societal impact in the spotlight long after the think pieces have stopped being published is a fight against public attention spans and general boredom.
6. Get Political
7. Help Out The Survivors
What else can we do to continue the conversation? Aside from talking about it, we can talk to the people who need to be heard most: the survivors. If you hear their stories, spread them; if possible, get yourself involved so that you can hear them yourselves, at shelters for victims and helplines offering advice and support. If you know somebody who's been assaulted, listen to them. Talk to your institution or workplace about supporting rape and sexual assault charities. Keep reiterating that treating anybody like this is unacceptable, that discussing it with dignity and support and respect is the minimum standard for human behavior instead of an exception, and that you are there, and you want to help. If the conversation fades into the background, so do they.