An Impatient Preventionista
Over the past week, I have rediscovered my inner activist. Patience is not typically one of my virtues. It’s something that I’ve had to work on, because as you know prevention of sexual violence takes time. So, I’ve spent a lot of time training and talking to people, working with groups, and waiting patiently as they climbed aboard the Primary Prevention Express. It has been exciting and rewarding to see the shift in thinking and the re-connection to our roots as a movement when it comes to social change and community mobilization.
And then I see something that causes me to stop in my tracks and realize that there is still so much to be done. And I am tired of waiting patiently. That realization hit me last week when I (finally) had the opportunity to see the Invisible War documentary about military sexual assault (check out a wonderful post on this documentary by my fellow Feminism blogger). If you have not seen this film, please do yourself a favor and watch it. As the brave survivors recounted their experiences of rape at the hands of fellow service members, I found myself overwhelmed with anger – at the perpetrators and also at an institution that would treat them so unfairly and essentially turn its back on them. The realization that many of these institutions are still operating under the illusion that prevention means that women are the ones who need to protect themselves - that somehow they are to blame for the assault because they did not walk with a buddy, watch their drink, or hang out with better people – was disheartening. Prevention programming in many of these institutions still focuses on risk reduction, or what women can do to keep from becoming victims, and NOT what the institution can do to stop potential perpetrators.
And last night as I watched the news, it was reported that a rape had occurred in a nearby town. In the words of the police, the victim had “put herself in harm’s way” by walking alone on the street at 3:00 in the morning. This was the tipping point for me.
I’m a bit tired of waiting patiently for people to “get” prevention. To understand that there is nothing a person who is raped does that makes them in any way responsible for the crime. That until we focus on perpetrator prevention, we will not get far in our work. But I can take my anger and use it to be an engaged citizen – by making phone calls, writing letters, and educating my friends and family about these issues and what they can do to help. And I can continue to provide training, assistance, and resources and wait patiently as social change happens. Change might not come as fast as I’d like it to, but collectively we are making a difference and it gives me hope that there will be an end to sexual violence. Thank you for working alongside me!