Being aware of BIPOC experiences, rape culture, and being an ally
By Shivani Jeet, Contributor
I think examples of rape culture are telling women they need to use the buddy system, carry weapons with them, or warning women against walking home alone at night and to take the safest path home.
April is considered to be sexual assault awareness month and typically, many sexual assault survivors and women’s advocates start campaigns, fundraisers, and projects to combat sexual violence in their community. Especially for black, indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) women, many argue that sexual violence against them is often ignored and their voices are silenced. So, how do we become more aware of sexual violence towards BIPOC women, and how can we support them?
Sexual violence happens everywhere around us, and sexual assault is most likely to be committed by someone the survivor knows personally. However, let’s not rely on narratives from movies and shows as they typically sugar-coat the reality of sexual assault. These narratives often depict being kidnapped and sexually assaulted in the dark or at a party. Though that does exist, we need to be more cognizant about the various types of assault happening in our communities. Types of sexual assaults can range from being stalked by someone we turned down (online or in person) or being harassed in a public place in broad daylight.
But, for black and Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people, it is more than that. Studies show that black and Indigenous women are more likely to be sexually assaulted and cast aside by police. Justice has yet to be served for too many of the missing and murdered females across North America—especially here in British Columbia, considering the area called the “Highway of Tears.”
Rape culture shows itself in many ways and it is not always victim blaming, slut shaming, or even “locker room talk.” I think examples of rape culture are telling women they need to use the buddy system, carry weapons with them, or warning women against walking home alone at night and to take the safest path home. These messages are often displayed by the media and they fail to hold men accountable for their own actions. I think instead of teaching women how they should protect themselves, we should be educating men and holding them accountable for their predatory actions. I believe this is where rape culture begins—indirect victim blaming, and lack of accountability towards men.
To be an ally for sexual assault survivors, you must always uplift the voices for BIPOC who are on the front lines advocating against sexual violence. Women should not be the only ones raising awareness about sexual
assault: this applies to men and every other human out there. I believe it is always going to be survivors against a patriarchal, heteronormative society and we need everyone to partake in combating rape culture and supporting survivors by asking them how they want to be supported.