The Internet can be a wonderland of potential information, connections and resources, but equally it can be a bewildering cul-de-sac where every link that you click on leads you back towards the same distressing dead-end: a rape-supporting culture. Surviving violence is one thing, but it frequently seems by far the least challenging element of life as a victim/survivor. The real challenge is surviving a world that continually, aggressively and callously confronts you with violent, misogynist values. As someone who has been so intimately and devastatingly hurt by sexual violence and/or violence against women, to witness the endless, casual taunts, ‘jokes’ and glamourised images of violence is crippling. It literally limits your capacity to move about freely and comfortably in the world.
Knowing that at any moment, a seemingly harmless move – a Google search, a flick through the television channels, a scan through the newspaper – could lead to pro-rape Facebook page or an offhand dismissal of a rape victim or a throwaway reference to ‘picking up drunk chicks’, makes it exceedingly difficult to feel safe in your own life. Knowing that lurking all around you are attitudes, images, opinions and actions that lead to violence, makes it exceedingly difficult to feel safe in your own life. Knowing that the outcome of these cultural values is the very violence that has savaged you, makes it exceedingly difficult to feel safe in your own life.
This is what it is like to live as a victim of violence in the world today. This is what it is like when you live every moment knowing that a potential trigger, a potential reminder not only of the violence you have been through but equally a warning of the very real danger that that violence may repeat itself, is only a moment’s inattention away. Even with the best intentions of protecting yourself from such harmful attitudes, it is literally impossible to shield yourself entirely from rape-supportive values and their cultural expressions. More often than not, rape is still seen as a joke, a minor misdemeanour or a fun past time. Rarely is it portrayed as the serious crime and human rights abuse that it, in fact, constitutes.
When your entire world has been brought down by that very same act that others dismiss as an amusing way to spend a weekend – well, quite simply, it’s impossible to explain what that feels like, what that does to a person. This abuse, – and it is an abuse, of one’s dignity and one’s right to safety – committed by society at large, is beyond devastating. It is catastrophic. The world ceases to be a place where one could ever feel ‘at home’. Rather it is a nightmarish morass of cruelty and violence. Violence isn’t only physical. Rape-supportive culture can represent a form of mental and emotional torture to victim/survivors of rape. Everywhere you turn it can seem like another person, another pop-culture production, another event is waiting to threaten you with the very same violence that put you in this situation in the first place.
Triggers. You cannot protect yourself for them. They’re there for you, ready or not. So, what to do? You can limit your cultural intake. You can limit your exposure to the world. But, even that is not enough. The answer, of course, has nothing to do with prevention of exposure. The prevention we need, rather, is to not create these triggers in the first place. They are not necessary. They are not right. They are not acceptable. The question shouldn’t be, how do we cope with triggers but, how did we create a rape-supportive culture and how are we going to replace it with a rape-preventative culture?
And the answer to this question, lies in the hearts, hands and minds of each of us. We must each find our own answer to this question, our own understanding of a rape-preventative culture and our representation of a rape-preventative culture. We are all part of the solution. We can all be a powerful force for change. Each time we take part in the world, whether it be hanging out with our friends in the real world or on Facebook, we can make sure that what we create, what we endorse and what we laugh at is safe, fun and respectful to all people. Humour happens at no-one’s expense. Violence is never funny. Don’t pull the trigger on a rape-supportive culture. Pull the trigger on a rape-preventative culture.