30 Days of Demanding the Change: Day 5

Spend the day linking social pressures of privacy to fostering silence for victims of sexual violence.

Current messages addressing privacy reinforce ideas about individual and family privacy, fostering secrecy and silence.

The culture of silence around sexual violence fosters an environment that contributes to the normalizing sexual harm.  We live in a society in which no one wants to talk about sexual violence.  No one wants to hear about the harm that is created when someone is sexually violated.  We can’t even talk openly about happy, healthy, fulfilling, caring consensual sex, so how are we supposed to be able to talk about sexual violence?  Labeling sexual violence as “family matters” or even “personal matters” prevents survivors from coming forward.  It also allows those individuals who choose to perpetrate the harm to continue this behavior without accountability for the harm they caused.

Even though we know the people who choose to inflict this harm tend to be someone we know versus someone we don’t know, society still reinforces stranger danger messages.  So what happens when the person committing the act of sexual violence is a parent, partner, coach, neighbor, family member or some other person who was supposed to be trusted?  The social expectation of keeping “family” or “personal” matters private often silences the victim, and, in turn, open dialogue about sexual violence is prevented.   An important part of preventing sexual violence requires a shift in our culture, our environment, so that we can talk about it.

Spend the day thinking about privacy.  What you have learned about what should be considered a “private matter”?  Consider how the silence surrounding sexual violence reinforces public shame and stigma for victims who come forward.  Is it really safe for victims to come forward without being blamed for their victimization?

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