It’s no secret that we have a serious problem with perpetuating rape culture and victim-blaming here in the U.S., but it’s become even more glaringly obvious over the past year. Take 20-year-old Brock Turner, who was found guilty of three felony counts of sexual assault, yet only spent three (yes, THREE) months in jail. Or 18-year-old David Becker, who was originally charged with two counts of rape and one count of indecent assault, and after pleading guilty to indecent assault and battery, received ZERO jail time.
It’s stories like these that make it painfully evident that something needs to be done to change society’s perception of sexual assault. This is why the latest It’s On Us video produced in collaboration with SheKnows’s Hatch program and the Ad Council is so important. The powerful 90-second video features children and teens holding signs with common phrases we’re constantly hearing in the conversations around sexual assault and consent:
He’s just picking on you because he likes you.
How much did you drink?
Don’t be a tattletale.
Boys will be boys.
Don’t walk alone.
Well, what were you wearing that night?
It’s easy to brush these types of comments off as simple remarks, but in reality, it’s this type of rhetoric that contributes to a society where boys are praised for hyper-masculinity and girls are convinced that they are somehow the problem. Every time our children hear these comments, we’re teaching them to rationalize sexual assault through victim-blaming — essentially taking the responsibility away from the culprit. And all of this is made more alarming with the fact that we live in a country where every 109 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted; and every eight minutes, the victim is a child. Yet, only six out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.
Even as a self-proclaimed feminist and someone who has friends who’ve experienced the trauma of sexual assault, I know I’m guilty of letting comments like the ones seen in the video pervade. Recently, I met a friend of a friend who remarked that women who accuse high-profile athletes and celebrities of assault are nothing but “money-grubbing whores.” I remember being in shock and telling him that I strongly disagreed, but that was the extent of our conversation. No heated argument took place. And while it was later explained to me that what he said was a “just a joke,” it doesn’t excuse the fact that he made light of a very serious situation.
It’s taken time for me to admit that a joke made in poor taste that I didn’t bother to correct contributes to the normalization of sexual assault. However simple an off-handed comment is, it’s still a person’s warped understanding of who is to blame. That’s why we have to realize that phrases like the ones presented in the video above have an effect on everyone, including our children. It’s time we change the conversation, which includes teaching our children the true meaning of consent, putting an end to victim-blaming, and speaking up when these types of comments are made.
It’s on us to be part of the change.
Visit ItsOnUs.org to take the pledge to stop sexual assault.