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We Never Blame The Rapist Because It’s In Our (Rape) Culture. Here’s How That Works

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In addition to what this tumblr post points out, the crime of rape is also the only crime where the victim is condemned equally, if not more, than the perpetrator. And look at domestic abuse, where victims will be prodded with unfair questions from the law about what they did to “provoke it” and even by their family and friends, who may ask the equally humiliating question of “well, why are you staying if you don’t want to be hit?” This creates a system that condemns victims of sexual and physical violence, forgives or ignores perpetrators, and generally creates a climate of fear that says that if you are a woman, violence will be done to you, but don’t look for justice because it will not come. This is rape culture, a system that “condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.”

This system refuses to condemn convicted rapist Brock Turner for longer than 6 months of jail time, despite his actions in 2015 of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at Stanford University. This system refuses to believe actor Amber Heard when she accuses spouse Johnny Depp of domestic abuse, despite having both pictorial evidence of violence towards her and eye-witness accounts from friends. This system led to one of the notorious perpetrators of the 2012 Delhi bus gang rape saying that the victim deserved it, for being “out late at night.

What woman didn’t grow into puberty being told that danger lurked around every corner, that the only way to avoid violence was to basically not exist at all? We women grew up, walking home after nights out in nervous groups, crossing the street to avoid men when we were by ourselves, tugging at the hemlines of our skirts as men hooted at us, crossing our legs, crossing our arms over our breasts in the fear that someone would shout something about the fact we’d dared to have a physical body in public. Dry-mouthed, we’d still try to remain polite to the man demanding we go for a drink with him, inventing a fictional boyfriend, even apologising for daring to not be interested, internally praying that we’d be okay, that he’d leave us alone.

And even when those in privileged positions claim to be fighting for the rights of women, they do so at the expense of other marginalised groups. Think back to the horrific Cologne incidents of January this year, where numbers of women were sexually assaulted and robbed on the street. And think of all the people who suddenly spoke out for women’s rights and protection from these attackers – just as long as they were allowed to condemn primarily the fact that the men looked like North African immigrants. And look at the North Carolina bathroom bill – banning transgender people from their preferred choice of bathroom; ostensibly this bigoted rule is to protect women from potential “bathroom predators,” but so far has just added extra misery to the lives of transgender people who also need the loo. In both cases, people claim to be fighting for women’s safety; in both cases, bigotry against another group took centre stage.

Brock Turner’s father decried the sentence as punishing his son for “20 minutes of action,” like Turner was guilty of watching one episode of an illegally downloaded TV show and not of brutally violating another person as she lay unconscious on the ground.

In response to Turner’s father defending his son, Pastor John Pavlovitz wrote a powerful open letter to him, father to father. “I understand you trying to humanize your son in your letter; talking to the judge about his favorite snacks and swim practice and about the memories that are sweet for you as his father—but to be honest I don’t give a damn and if his victim was your daughter I’m quite sure you wouldn’t either.

In one of the most striking sections, Pavlovitz condemned Turner’s actions, stating “The story here, is that young men have choices to make and these choices define them, even if those choices are made when temptation is great and opportunity is abundant.” He followed this with: “we choose integrity and decency; when we abstain from doing what is easy but wrong.

Whilst I commend him on his strong support of the survivor, I still take issue with the fact that Brock Turner was expected to do what was right and not what was “easy.” Raping an unconscious woman should not be considered an “easy” wrong choice to make, like grabbing your housemate’s last cookie or ignoring an important email. What kind of a world are we in when an unconscious woman is a “temptation” for a young man and not a cause for alarm and concern? But I’m not surprised Pavlovitz phrased it this way, because that is exactly the world we are in. Where sexual assault is “easy,” where “opportunity [to commit it] is abundant.

This is a world where violation of a person’s body and soul results in a slap on the wrist to the perpetrator and even an impassioned plea to think of the perpetrator’s feelings.

One of the most telling statements regarding the case comes from Turner’s friend, Leslie Rasmussen, who spoke to defend him and blamed “political correctness” for the conviction.

Where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.”

“Not everyone who rapes is a rapist”? Despite her later retracting her statement and publishing an apology, it still proves salient in pinpointing how we often refuse to condemn the perpetrators of violence against women in rape culture. Brock Turner rapes someone but he isn’t a rapist, Johnny Depp beats his wife but he isn’t an abuser.

Collectively, we as a society seem to have a real problem with condemning individual acts of woman-hating for what it is; we’re happy to say sexism is a problem but refuse to see its direct effects, or condemn our peers or leaders for it, or ourselves even. We see rapists and abusers as sociopathic strangers in ski-masks jumping out of the darkness, not as our friends or our heroes. Rape culture doesn’t come distilled in a few individuals who only exist to hate women – Brock Turner is not the cause, he is a symptom. He might blame his actions on “party culture,“but that is the wrong culture he is looking at. (Also, can we just look at the ridiculousness of the logic that says that alcohol condemns a victim and excuses a perpetrator.)

It is not individual men who are the problem. As much as I might groan like any feminist when someone jumps into a discussion of male privilege with “not all men are like that,” empirically speaking, they are entirely correct. Think of the two men who rescued the unconscious Stanford victim from her attacker – one tackling Turner to the ground as he attempted to escape, one so horrified at the situation he wept. They are both men, but so wildly different in nature from Brock Turner that it seems ridiculous to even compare them. But we should – they show that rape culture is insidious, but not a terminal diagnosis by any means.

Therefore we can see that whilst Brock Turner deserves the full extent of the law, it is not enough to merely condemn him as an individual. We must condemn both the culture that validated his desire to rape a woman and the culture that refuses to condemn him for his actions.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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