A thousand thoughts rushed through my head at once. Why is this guy touching me? Do I know him from somewhere? After a quick examination, I realized the man was a complete stranger.
Last night, I went to a bar to meet up with a good friend. It was open mic night at a small local bar, almost similar to a pub, and I was looking forward to hearing my friend perform for the first time. When I walked through the entrance, the bar was pretty crowded; there were tables lining the left side of the wall and a full bar lining the right, leaving only a short sliver of walkway for me to pass through to reach the table from which my friend was waving.
I attempted to slide through the crowd as quickly as possible, but as I reached the middle of the bar, I felt a hand wrap around my waist. A man, who had been sitting at the bar, had grabbed me and was pulling me toward him, smiling.
My face, I imagine, resembled some combination of shock and confusion. I raised both arms up and said, “What are you doing?” He mumbled something to me that I’m sure was meant to be a compliment, but I didn’t stay long enough to find out. I wiggled free and proceeded to the table at the back of the bar to be seated, safely, with friends.
However, this is not the first time this has happened to me. Identical scenarios occur almost every time I find myself in a similar setting, not to mention the fact that another older man, sitting at an adjacent table to us, stared at me for the remainder of that evening. In the past, it proved to be a minor, momentary annoyance that I’d pretty much expected and was used to by now. However, this time, I haven’t been able to shake it from my head.
Earlier that day, I had been reading up on the Stanford Rape Case. I read the victim’s letter and Brock’s father’s steak-related plea. I read the comments, the outrage that people had toward the light sentencing and the possibility of the Judge being repealed. I read article after article about the case and the idea of creating a better generation in the future — one with more respect toward women, one that doesn’t believe that there is a difference between rape and being a rapist. But, with all due respect, I think we may be missing the point.
Of course, raising a better generation is important, but guess how many people that is going to help right now? Good guess — none. I can completely understand why we would approach the situation pessimistically; it does seem pretty bleak. We can tell ourselves that we’ve failed with this generation, that we’ll get ‘em next time around, but that is not going to help the 288,000+ victims per year who will be affected every year until this “better generation” is brought up.
So what can we do now? That’s a very big question with a very simple answer. We do all we can. We notice behavior and correct it; we don’t brush it off. We tell men at bars who grab us that it’s not okay to treat us with the same mental capacity and consideration with which a toddler treats a cookie. We see the girl who is a little too drunk at the bar and offer to help her home instead of laughing off her drunken antics. We become more self-aware on a daily basis, because, even if you would never commit sexual assault, exhibiting the bystander effect can aid in its occurrence.
Finally, and most importantly, we educate. We know how many rapes occur per year, but the after-effects may be even more important to note considering Dan Turner’s comments regarding his son’s “20 minutes of action.”
Here’s what that “20 minutes of action” leads to:
-94% of women who are raped experience post traumatic stress disorder symptoms during the two weeks following the rape.
-30% of women report PTSD symptoms 9 months after the rape.
-33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide.
-13% of women who are raped attempt suicide.
Lastly, (and here’s the big one) —
-Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than any other violent crime.
Not only that but victims of sexual assault are more likely to use drugs, and they are more likely to struggle with personal relationships (with family, friends, romantic interests, etc.) for the rest of their lives. This isn’t “20 minutes of action” for the victims; this is the rest of their lives.
Sure, your son’s job prospects and future will be affected by his actions, but he can go home, close the blinds, and, theoretically, forget about it for a while. She can’t.
Therefore, I’m calling for everyone to take their own “20 minutes of action.” Take twenty minutes out of your day to make sure someone gets home safely. Take twenty minutes out of your day to make sure that your friends, children, and coworkers know how to properly protect and defend themselves from advances. And, most importantly, take twenty minutes out of your day to explain to your children, coworkers, and friends what constitutes as rape and the severity of that action.
You may be thinking, “Oh, no one I know would ever do that.” But guess what? That’s what Leslie Rasmussen, a friend of Brock’s who made a statement regarding his excellence of character, thought as well.
I am by no means simply blaming men for this problem. In fact, one out of every ten rape victims is a male. And I know that there are a lot of respectful people on this earth who would never assault anyone. But let’s say you’re one of the good ones. If you’ve even heard a friend make a joke about sexual assault or catcall or grab a woman without permission, and you did nothing then, I’m sorry, but you’re part of the problem.
Stop hoping for a brighter future. You can make change happen now, with just 20 minutes of action. So do it.
Statistics courtesy of RAINN.