With Halloween just one day away, you may be wondering what you should dress up as this year. Actress and writer Summer Ray (@SummerRay) posed the question to Twitter: “Your Halloween costume is ‘sexy’ + your biggest fear” and it’s made the rounds on Twitter moments, garnering responses from the hilarious (human interaction and commitment) to the outright terrifying (student debt and climate change).
Nearly every response to the thread was a joke, crafted for optimum retweets, but of course, if you think about it, if we were really dressing up as our biggest fears this Halloween, many women would be dressing up as Brett Kavanaugh, or Harvey Weinstein, maybe it would be Bill Cosby or Brock Turner, or Donald Trump.
We wouldn’t necessarily be dressing up as a sexy Brett Kavanaugh because we’re really afraid of him as a person, but because we’re afraid of what Kavanaugh represents; the threat of sexual violence. And unfortunately, we don’t think any amount of red lipstick and fishnet tights are going to make that ‘sexy’.
The real monster under the bed isn’t as easily dealt with as a spider or texting your ex, new accusations of sexual assault are being made against men in positions of power what seems like everyday now, and the statistics? Those are one of the scariest parts of the story.
Nearly half a million adults are sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year.
1 in 5 women aged 16-59 have experienced sexual violence since the age of 16.
Around 15% of those who experience sexual violence, report it to the police.
These statics from RapeCrisis.org are a small snapshot of a much larger problem.
And while misguided individuals on Twitter are crying out #HimToo, ‘afraid’ of being falsely accused, the reality is that research from the Home Office claims that only 4% of sexual violence, reported to the police, in the UK, are found to be false. The fact remains that you are far more likely to be a victim of sexual violence, that to be falsely accused of it.
Revolt Sexual Assault, a campaign aiming to hand back the power and giving a voice to survivors of sexual assault and harassment, works towards exposing the extent of sexual violence experienced by students at university in the UK. Their research, in partnership with The Student Room, found that 62% students and graduates had experienced sexual assault or harassment at university in the UK, from a survey of 153 institutions and 4,500 students.
So what do we do? When faced with statistics like that? When every BBC news update and trending hashtag is another woman coming forward to expose their rapist? What do we do when we know this is happening on our doorstep?
We aren’t going to tell you to stop listening to music on your walk home from uni (thanks for that one Met Police *eye roll*), or hold your keys between your fingers, to not get too drunk on nights out or wear skirts that are too short. You’ve heard those nuggets of ‘advice’ (victim blaming) before. It isn’t a pair of headphones, or a short skirt that gets raped after all. You probably already take precautions like that, because we’ll do anything to feel safer.
So what do we do, what can we do?
It sounds trivial, we know. The epitome of slacktivism is shooting off a quick tweet and calling it a day. But interacting with hashtags like #metoo, or tweeting your MP petitioning to change national policy to end assault aren’t useless actions. Twitter is a platform that allows everyone to have their say, and getting yours out there is vital when there are so many others trying to drown us out. Tweet, retweet, like and join the conversation.
The truth is, Brett Kavanaugh may well believe he is innocent. He might not view what he did to Christine Blasey Ford as an assault because he simply does not understand what that word means, or it wasn’t an important enough moment in his life for him to remember it. The same cannot be said for Christine Blasey Ford, that moment was life changing for her, and she will never forget it. Talking about consent, what that word means and how you can put it into practice is vital in tackling rape culture. Educating women on the different ways that they can report an assault, and who is available to support them throughout the process is crucial to the well-being of survivors. Educate yourself, get in contact with your student union and see if there’s a way they can help spread knowledge. If we don’t learn about it, we remain ignorant and so rarely is ignorance truly bliss.
Call it out.
We’ve all been there, one the dancefloor suddenly sobered because a guy will not leave you alone, his hands are creeping closer and none of your friends are in sight. And then a random girl you’ve never met before slides in, she hugs you and subtly pushes him out of the way and starts chatting like you’re best friends. She saw the fear in your eyes and stepped in, she didn’t look away and pretend she didn’t see it, who knows what might have happened if she had? Sexual violence is a product of a culture that is already misogynistic, so when you see misogyny in your day to day life, and you feel safe and able, call it out. Don’t let them get away with it just because they always have.
If you would like to learn more, or are in need of support regarding any of the topics mentioned, below are a list of useful places to go.
Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30pm and 7-9:30pm)
Women Against Rape
Text by Holly Butteriss
Picture research by Juliéy Pham; featured image from catchnews.com.