RSVP center advocates to change rape culture norm

The epidemic of rape culture has only recently begun to change after the #MeToo movement went viral in 2017. A few simple fixes could help vastly reduce the rape culture in the world and make the quality of life much better for everybody.
The MU RSVP Center holds classes about rape culture to freshmen for their citizenship requirement. The RSVP Center is an organization dedicated to decreasing the prevalence of rape, sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking by creating a campus culture that does not tolerate violence. Photo by Photo Editor Tanner Bubeck

One in every four women will be sexually assaulted at MU before graduation.

This statistic came from a study conducted by The Association of American Universities regarding sexual harassment on the MU campus. These numbers continue to be high despite the two-year existence of the #MeToo movement.

To better inform students, the MU Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center held a meeting about rape culture on Oct. 16. This meeting fulfilled citizenship requirements for freshmen at MU.

Rape culture is when sexual harassment and assault are normalized due to certain societal attitudes toward gender and sexuality. Promoting rape culture could be anything from making an inappropriate joke about a co-worker to committing, or condoning rape.

The meeting was run by Peyton Flewelling and Katryna Sardis, two RSVP Center employees.

“[Rape culture is] a culture in which sexual violence against [people] is common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices and media condone, normalize, excuse or tolerate sexual violence,” Sardis said.

The meeting focused on the normalization of rape culture. Whenever an inappropriate comment is labeled as locker room talk or just guys being guys, it makes it seem like the comment is okay. MU sophomore and attendee of the meeting Kyle Smith agreed this language should not be normalized.

“Minimizing sexist language can lead to a different attitude towards victims, which can reduce or eliminate sexual assault on our campus,” Smith said.

The Rape Culture Pyramid puts normalized aspects of rape culture at the bottom. At the top, it has the actions that are actually illegal. According to Flewelling and Sardis, reacting to the bottom of the pyramid with the same outrage as the top would go a long way to ending rape culture.

Another very common instance of rape culture brought up by Flewelling and Sardis is victim blaming. They argued that telling people, particularly women, to dress in a certain way or act in a certain way contributes to rape culture.

Smith disagrees.

“I disagree about the steps needed to take to prevent rape,” he said. “The instructors implied that victims should do absolutely nothing to keep themselves out of danger.”

Flewelling and Sardis want the emphasis to be on prevention, not risk reduction. Instead of telling people how to dress, bystanders should find ways to intervene. They recommend learning and using the Green Dot Prevention Strategy, something MU has implemented since 2013.

Between 2010 and 2013, research conducted on three campuses regarding Green Dot showed interpersonal violence victimization rates dropping 17% on the campus implementing Green Dot’s technique as opposed to the two other campuses that did not implement it.

Green Dot’s goal is for bystanders to intervene during situations that could lead to sexual assault.

“[Our program] relies on the premise that if everyone does their small part and commits to individual responsibility, the combined effect is a safe campus culture that is intolerant of violence,” reads their website.

Even if all attempts to prevent sexual assault fail, Flewelling and Sardis wanted to emphasize that it is never the victim’s fault. Not even if they stay silent. They talked about the media’s role in keeping victims silent with victim shaming, pointing to specific examples like the Brock Turner case.

Turner was a swimmer at Stanford University. In 2016, Turner was charged with three counts of sexual assault and served six months in prison. A common lead in stories regarding this case looked like:

“In March the former swimming star was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault and last week he was sentenced to six months in jail,” according to the presentation.

Flewelling and Sardis argued the focus on Turner gave him more attention than he deserved. Some of that attention was even positive, like referring to him as a “former swimming star.” Changing the perspective in the media from the perpetrator to the victim could go a long way in ending rape culture for good.

Edited by Ben Scott | bscott@themaneater.com

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