In our current political climate of extreme divisions, things that we can all agree on seem few and far between. But basically everyone on the planet (except apparently Woody Allen) can come together around this: Harvey Weinstein is a disgusting garbage pile of a human, and his actions are horrific.
Harvey Weinstein is only the repulsive tip of a dark, huge, and hideous iceberg. But the iceberg is coming to the surface. Women are coming forward and sharing their stories.
The flood of #metoo declarations is heart-wrenching, the scope of the suffering almost unbearable. But it’s also a call to action. We *have* to take the momentum of this movement and make sure it means something. Call me a naïve idealist, but I truly believe that this moment can be a turning point. Let’s channel our outrage and become a united front in the battle against sexual violence.
I wasn’t a Women’s Studies major. I’m not an expert on this stuff. But I’m fired up. I’ve been voraciously reading every article I see on the subject, searching for concrete, actionable advice. I’m sure this isn’t comprehensive but we have to start somewhere. So here are 8 things you can do now to be part of the solution.
1. Retrain your brain to stop victim-blaming. When we hear that something terrible happened to someone, often our *first* instinct is to think about what the person should have done differently to prevent it. Got assaulted? You shouldn’t have been walking in that neighborhood. As our subconscious thinking goes, the victim must somehow be to blame; otherwise this terrible thing could just as easily have happened to us. Catch yourself when you start thinking like this. And let me say this one more time for the people in the back: if someone is sexually assaulted, what (s)he wore/how much (s)he drank/where (s)he went is not at fault. It’s the perpetrator’s fault. Period.
2. Donate to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, or another nonprofit that addresses sexual assault. Among many other services, RAINN operates the free hotline for victims of sexual abuse.
3. Advocate for rape kit testing – There are thousands of rape kits sitting, untested, in crime labs across the United States of America. Let that sink in. Check out what YOUR state is doing about its own backlog. Mine has 3,700 untested kits, and this year FAILED to pass bills that would have required a tracking system for rape kits and mandatory submission and testing. This is absolutely unacceptable; it’s time to get involved and get loud.
4. Let your money talk. Don’t support companies that advertise by objectifying women. Refuse to patronize businesses that advertise this way, and let them know exactly why you’re taking your business elsewhere.
If you went to college…
5. Contact your alma mater and ask what they’re doing to address sexual assault on campus. Approximately 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted during their time in college. Find out whether your school has implemented programs that are proven to be effective, and push for change if not enough is being done.
If you’re a parent of young children
6. Don’t force your kids to give hugs or kisses. I am thrilled to see this idea gaining traction across social media. Allowing your kids to refuse unwanted touch teaches ownership of their bodies and that they’rere not obligated to give affection for the sake of making others happy – pretty critical lessons, no?
If you’re a parent of boys
7. Teach them about consent. I can’t say it any better than this Facebook post from Mama Lion Strong:
No family sets out to raise a rapist. Nor do they tell their sons it’s ok to violate a girl at a party when she’s drunk.[…]
And yet… It’s happening. Boys, and men, from “good families” are committing assaults and harassments every day.
Teach your boys about consent. Prepare them for situations they will inevitably be in, from “locker room talk” to being alone in a bedroom with a girl whose had too much to drink. Be specific. Ask them, “how will you feel? What will you say? What will you do?”
You can start this at a young age. We have a “don’t touch other people’s bodies without asking” rule. I ask my boys (ages 4, 6 and 8) things like, “if you saw a friend doing [insert various unkind actions] on the playground how would you feel? What would you say? How would you say it?”
If you’re a man…
8. Do not enable harassment by staying silent. This point is expressed perfectly in a Scary Mommy piece by Kristen Mae: “What I want is for the Good Men to take the necessary risks to call out and condemn harassment, misogyny, assault, inequity, when they see it. I want them to come out in droves, like a stomping herd of angry rhinos, not just on social media but in real life, where it counts. Take a f****** risk. Whether it’s a family member or a co-worker or a boss or a bro, call out the inappropriate behavior of your fellow men.” Also check out this this amazing post from Nicole Stamp – I can’t possibly say it better than she does.
Want more ideas? Educate yourself about sexual assault laws and rape culture. Stop using language that equates masculinity with strength and femininity with weakness (“man up” or “you’re crying like a little girl”). Volunteer. Be the change. This is on all of us, and the time to stand up is now.