By: Kyndall Cunningham, Columnist
For a while now, I’ve been able to open my Twitter feed on a weekly — and sometimes daily — basis to new and disturbing revelations about powerful men abusing women and men below them. Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Mark Halperin, Brett Ratner, Roy Moore and now Louis C.K., not to mention the flood of revelations and everyday encounters with sexual harassment from the #MeToo hashtag. Unfortunately for our society and the world at large, this isn’t a sudden outbreak of bad behavior that can be easily be fixed by eliminating a couple of bad eggs. It’s embedded in our culture.
Rape culture is all around us whether you feel comfortable admitting to it or not. Ultimately, our comfort doesn’t matter when it comes to protecting victims of rape, sexual assault, harassment or misconduct. I understand that the use of the word rape in rape culture can be confusing or hyperbolic to some, especially men. There are a lot of men who can’t even fathom “textbook definition” raping someone. In this case, rape serves as a catch-all term for inappropriate, nonconsensual behavior that we allow to poison our society and silence its victims. Apathy and complicity towards these behaviors have brought our society to a seemingly hopeless place where we don’t even know how to address rape without skepticism, or punish its offenders properly. But I believe we can all take steps to better ourselves by changing the way we talk about sexual assault, and teaching our peers to do the same.
We must eliminate the enablers. An enabler is someone who contributes to rape culture most commonly through the never-failing discourse of doubt and dangerous signaling whenever a victim decides to speak out.
Being an active member on social media and seeing men AND women talk about rape allegations like some desperate trick women and men pull on people in power makes you want to scream into a pillow, especially if you’ve experienced it firsthand. But for the rest of us who know what’s right and are willing to defend people who are hurting, we can be voices of reason, strength, compassion and understanding. If you know an enabler, correct them when they speak down on sexual assault victims. Because it’s not just a difference of opinion, there’s right and there’s wrong.