Editor’s note: The author of this piece chose to remain anonymous due to the sensitive and personal nature of its content.
In 2016 “grab ’em by the pussy” unfortunately took it’s place as one of the most common phrases in popular culture. Even more disturbing is the phrase’s origin is the lips of the future President of the United States.
It is extremely hard to deny rape culture is an integral part of our society’s fabric when the president-elect can say and do things to objectify women and make light of sexual assault. If the person meant to represent my country and its people, along with its morals and values, perpetuates rape culture and victim-blaming, why wouldn’t anyone else? Why wouldn’t I?
I was sexually assaulted at the beginning of my sophomore year. As an avid feminist, sexually liberated woman and someone many friends referred to as a “mom,” I never thought it would happen to me, and if it did, I believed I would take the utmost steps to fight back.
Instead, until about a month after, I completely denied to myself that I was sexually assaulted in the first place. This is when I realized how deeply I had been influenced by rape culture.
Yes, I was drunk. Yes, I thought he was cute. But I said no.
I said no when I told him I didn’t want to do anything past kissing because I was on my period, but he pulled out my tampon for me. I said no, but he tried to go inside me, so I offered a condom. It wasn’t until he tried to take the condom off when he finally listened to my no, and left.
My first thought the next morning was confusion. Why was I upset when I enjoyed hooking up with guys and partying?
Then I looked in the mirror. I saw the bruises all over my body and I knew this was different. I felt violated, but I also thought it was my fault. I danced with him, so I was asking for sexual attention.
Objectively, I know these thoughts are pure victim-blaming, but that didn’t stop them from happening. Rape culture is so deeply embedded in to my psyche that I couldn’t see how much it influenced my own thinking.
Because of this, for fear of being humiliated and blamed, I did not want to report the incident, though the thought was always in my mind. Then came election night.
When Donald Trump became president-elect, I was scared and upset for many reasons. I could not, however, stop the feeling of relief when I thought about my decision not to report my sexual assault.
Now, even the president wouldn’t take me seriously so why would any part of government, including the court system? A court system with an already shoddy track record, one which sentenced Stanford student Brock Turner to only six months in jail for a rape with hard evidence and two witnesses?
It is sickening, but I believe going through a court case would do more harm than good for me, my friends and my family. It wouldn’t be worth the mild punishment for my assailant.
I know rape culture exists and it has such a strong hold on all of us that rapists and sexual assailants never face the consequences they deserve, while the victims pay for their actions.
Personally, I felt the only effective way to punish my assailant at the time while protecting myself and fellow women was to take action within the fraternity he belonged to. I was able to get him kicked out of the fraternity and start a conversation about sexual assault within its members.
The court system undoubtedly needs to be fixed and I hope in the near future reporting sexual assaults will be the right choice for everyone in their personal situation. But fixing the court system will not make rape or rape culture go away. Education will.
Boys and girls must be taught not to rape. They must be taught that humans are not sexual objects. They must be taught that victims are not to blame for any acts committed against them.
We need better sexual education in our school systems — including the University of Wisconsin — and we need parents and teachers to know how to curtail harmful rhetoric at young ages so rhetoric doesn’t turn into belief — which turns to attitude, which turns to action. If the most important adult in America doesn’t understand rape culture, then adults are in dire need of education on the topic as well.
Education shouldn’t stop in high school, but needs to continue at the university level, including UW, by ramping up efforts like the Tonight program.
It is hard to connect to actors on a computer screen and actually take the program seriously, especially when it is summer time and the quizzes are easily passed with minimal attention to the material. Sexual assault, rape and rape culture education would be much more effective it was more engaging and personal.
“Grab ’em by the pussy” is not meaningless locker room talk. It is the president’s rhetoric. It is the belief of that frat boy and of too many others on this campus.
ASM supports sexual assault survivors, undocumented students on campusThe Associated Students of Madison stood in solidarity with sexual assault survivors and undocumented students at the University of Wisconsin Read…
All I can hope for now is that something does change.
Change starts with each person. Not being afraid to explain to a friend why their comment about women was harmful or speaking up against hateful rhetoric in our own lives will surely but slowly help to educate others and hopefully stop the epidemic of rape culture.
Talking about non-consensually grabbing someone by the pussy is not funny, especially when it happens to you.