Change can’t happen without a little discomfort. What I’m about to talk about makes me uncomfortable, because I worry about distressing people who've had traumatic experiences and I don’t want to shock or upset others who might be living in ignorant bliss…there’s one other fear I have, but I’ll tell you that later. The fact is the following affects us all, and I believe the solution is for people to speak up. So if I don’t speak out myself, I’ll be the ultimate hypocrite. So here goes…*trigger warning.*
1 in 6 women are raped (or attempted raped) in America. 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in England and Wales (based on the small percentage, who actually report it). These countries are considered to be “developed” yet we seem to be struggling to teach the simple lesson of “how to keep your hands to yourself.” Just think of those figures for a moment...that means you’re likely to know not just one friend or family member who’s been seriously sexually assaulted, but you probably know quite a few. How many girls did you go to school with? How many do you work with? How many do you see on a night out? Do you get the picture? *
What’s always fascinated me most about those statistics is an unanswered question. If 1 in 5 of my female friends are sexually assaulted, how many sexual predators am I friends with? I understand that presumably one perpetrator has hurt multiple people, so I hope the statistic for how many predators is far lower…but still, I think I must know a few — and you probably know some too. I don’t know anyone who’s been convicted, but again, statistically speaking, if only 15% of assaults are reported and only 5.7% of those result in a conviction…then chances are the majority of rapists are walking freely among us.
So here’s my third fear about speaking up. It’s controversial, but I suspect at least 2 of my acquaintances of being a “Harvey Weinstein.” They’re both powerful men (essentially gatekeepers) in the music industry, who could help further my career. They’re both almost twice my age, have inappropriately grabbed my ass and been suggestive with me. So how are they going to react to me encouraging everyone to speak out against people like them? Are they going to hold back my career? Well, yes, of course they are! They don’t want to boost someone like me who’s grown a willingness not only to stand up to them, but call them out on their behaviour. The more people like me speaking out creates a huge threat to their power, and they’re not stupid. But no matter how important my success in music is to me and those around me, I don’t want to keep living in an industry that allows sexual predators to thrive. I’m sick of it. I don’t want it for me, I don’t want it for my friends, and I don’t want it for you or the future generation.
So how do we stop it?
- We speak loudly when it happens — tell the predator it’s unacceptable. If there are others there, tell them what’s happened and that it’s unacceptable.
- Proudly support those who are brave enough to speak up.
- When you hear sexist remarks or “rape jokes,” shut them down. Predators thrive in environments where jokes like these are made — it allows them to downplay the severity of their crimes. And really, what's funny about rape?
- If you know a friend is going to meet or work with a predator, warn them so they can decide if they’re going to be safe.
- If you suspect one of your friends of being a predator, encourage them to seek help and give them your support in healing.
Side note: if “predator” seems too harsh, replace it with “creep”...but truly, they’re predators and it’s time we recognised that.
These are small acts we can all do, but don't you think if we all commit to them we might (at last) see a change?
*Rape often results in serious mental-health difficulties and physical pain years after the event, including PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which can be triggered by the mention of the word "rape." A "trigger" can mean many things, but might result in flashbacks, blackouts or other uncontrollable reactions.
**It’s really important not to forget that males are being raped too and are often surviving in silence.