Many of you shared and asked for my thoughts regarding the recent Stanford assault and the courageous and beautifully articulated letter from the victim.
It is a must read: http://bzfd.it/1ZsOqe2
I could spend decades writing on this, so I thought I would share how I would respond if you asked me about it over a drink.
- There is an important difference between confusion and accident
- We must not place blame on the loved one of the victims
- The system needs to stop asking victims "Why were you assaulted?" and ask assailants "What about your behavior shows that you were evoking pleasure?"
I want to honor how many beautiful, sweet people have written to me his week and have also sent me the incredibly and courageous letter from the victim of the Stanford sexual assault [http://bzfd.it/1ZsOqe2].
I just want to get out there, quickly, a couple of thoughts that I had about it. In case they are useful. With the intention that they will be helpful.
This notion between confusion and accident is very VERY important. We must distinguish the two from one another. And I actually believe that the young man who committed this egregious, outrageous, unlawful act of sexual assault was deeply confused. And I think it is important to recognize that confusion. Because this was a first year college student accepted into one of the best colleges in the world. I think the reason why so often we highlight assailant's accomplishments is out of our own confusion that surely if somebody has the ability to be a top swimmer or an Olympian than they can't be so deeply confused on other grounds. And yet they can. Because we as a society - through mainstream porn and a harmful lack of sexual education - have purposely tried to confuse them. Yet that doesn't mean that there is anything accidental about what happened in this case. This was purposeful. And it needed to be addressed incredibly differently and more severely than it was. So really think about that difference between confusion and accident. They are not the same. We've got to stop confusing our youth around sexuality and consent. Because when we do confuse youth this is what ends up happening and it's not accidental.
The other point, is about there being any notion that this woman's sister was at fault. We're so quick to blame everyone involved with sexual violence accept for the perpetrator (particularly when they are a young, educated, white man). It has just got to stop. There is no responsibility for sexual assault outside of the assailant's behavior. So that sister, or friend, or a brother or a parent who "wasn't present" or "didn't pull somebody out of the situation", that has no relevance to what actually happened. I think this letter [http://bzfd.it/1ZsOqe2] did such a beautiful job of showing how true that is. It is not up to friends and family to protect. This is about assailants not assaulting.
The final point for me here, is that this story has highlighted how harmful our current judicial system is to victims and survivors of sexual assault. This is clearly a woman who experienced assault (the 12 jurors agreed.). Yet, the sentencing itself was a further reminder of how her assault was not going to be validated through our society. A six month sentence for an assault this violent is just incomprehensible and atrocious. I think in that sentencing we as humans - we as woman in particular - are reminded that it might not be worth our while to share our stories and go through the courts. Because even when it is so clear cut, it can be this painful and result in such a non-result.
My wish with my business O'actually and with what I put out into the world, is that we shift the paradigm on so many different levels. What would the world look like if rather us asking the woman - "How much were you drinking?; What were you wearing? How often have you had sex in the past?" - all these questions that have no relevance on what happened in that actual moment of assault. If instead we shift and ask the man (apologies, for my hetero-normative statement on this, but please bear with me through it for pragmatic reasons), "What about your behavior signaled to you any sort of belief and trust that this woman was having an enjoyable experience?"
That's where we need to go. In all aspects. We need to be focused on sexual pleasure in a way of prioritizing it, so that it prevents violence.
When we change this expectation around switching from "how do we teach women not to be raped?" to "how do we teach the prioritization of women's sexual pleasure", that's where we do the real work. That's were we see the results. That's were we see the dramatic decrease in sexual violence.