Kicking Off the Conversation: Tough Topics

The best and most honest way to promote change is to talk about the issues in an open and honest way.  This will make people uncomfortable and confused, but that’s typically how you know you’re getting somewhere.  Women’s rights issues, especially sexual violence, are not typically dinner time topics of conversation – but it’s time to make them! As advocates, let’s not be afraid to bring up things that make others nervous, as long as we do it in a respectful way.

The most recently aired episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) (on 2/26/14) touched upon some incredibly timely and important issues in the sexual assault and rape conversation.  The episode involved a stand-up comedian making rape jokes while performing for a college aged crowd.  His content is what matters to me (I’m not here to discuss freedom of speech, jokes v. threats, etc.), but the conversation about rape and alcohol. Questions raised throughout the episode include:

When is it rape if both parties were drunk?

Can one person be “more drunk” then the other?

Who is responsible for consenting when both parties are drunk?

Can there be a clear line when it comes to consent and alcohol/drug impairment?

We all know NO MEANS NO.  This episode pushes beyond that by looking at how alcohol factors in and how alcohol is often “blamed” for sexual violence.  Another short interaction on the show opened up a whole new slew of questions.  One female student stood up in protest of the comedian’s content and another female student stood up and mocked her.  Women, we need to stick together! Rape is never a joke and only when we start taking rape and sexual assault seriously can we begin to shift the conversation towards prevention and intervention measures best aimed at reducing this all too common, yet devastating, problem!

The episode managed to bring up lots of common issues – slut shaming, consent, power dynamics (celebrity interested in average college girl), difficulties with prosecuting rape, challenges affecting victims who come forward and testify, victim’s past coming into play, role of alcohol in sexual assault and rape, campus/college and sexual violence …

My takeaway: The most important thing seems to be the willingness to ask the questions – without fear of shame or stupidity. Never be afraid to ask and demand that someone to answer –  your campus police and administration, local community, government, the media, etc… SVU puts the tough questions out there and it’s up to activists to ensure the questions are heard so that they can be answered!

How have you talked about these issues?  How have these issues been addressed in your community? Feel free to leave me an answer/idea/more questions…


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