October 20, 2016

It’s still Assault if they “Let you Do It.”

rape, rape culture, coercion


In my years as a woman, there have been countless times I’ve been groped or grabbed—In malls, crowded nightclubs and busy sporting events.

Many women I know have experienced the same thing and if you were to look at Kelly Oxford’s timeline on Twitter after Donald Trump’s “grab them in the p*ssy” comment came out, you’ll see just how rampant this problem is.

One of the arguments I’ve heard put forward is that Trump’s statements to do not describe sexual assault because of the phrase “and when you’re a star they let you do itbecause “let” implies consent. There was a woman on the news defending Trump’s words with that very statement. The only problem is that…no, it doesn’t.

See, we live in a rape culture—a term that was coined by Feminists in the 1970sto describe a society where sexual violence is normalized and victims shamed. Some of the symptoms of the rape culture that we live in are the pathetically light sentence given to Brock Turner, the fact that some 55 accusers had to come forward against Bill Cosby for people to believe the allegations had merit, and the fact that sexual offenders often get less prison time for rape than a person gets for possession of marijuana.

A significant problem with rape culture is that when women speak up or speak out about sexual assault, they aren’t believed. In fact, a high proportion of sexual assaults do not get reported because victims are afraid they won’t be believed. Those are accusations made against “average joe,” not against men who have power and privilege.

Now, let’s take a look at what happens when a woman accuses a man in power of sexual assault. When they do have the courage to come forward about assaults, they are often pegged as sluts, gold-diggers and liars. Their reputations are tarnished, they are forever branded, and in the worst situations the burden becomes too much to bear and they choose to end their lives. Many times, women who have been sexually assaulted and know that this is what will come their way if they speak out, choose to remain silent.

Many women decide that it is better to “let” someone grope them and walk away from it in order to avoid the backlash that would come should they dare speak up.

To say that “let” is the key word that draws the line between consent and rape is a shaky premise at best and shows a remarkable lack of knowledge of rape culture at worst. In Canada, implicit consent was ruled not a defense in 1999 when a man—whose defense was essentially “she stopped saying no”—assaulted a woman.

Silence is not consent.

When a woman has a man “grab” her “in the p*ssy,” it is a horrifying and traumatic experience. The common reactions to trauma are to fight, flight or freeze. Some women will fight back and say something about it. Some will run as far away as possible. Some will freeze and do nothing.

None of those responses imply consent.

Sexuality and sexual expression is and should be a beautiful, sacred thing. It should not involve forcibly kissing someone upon seeing them. It should not involve grabbing anyone’s genitals without explicit permission.

As a country, and as humanity as a whole, it is time to evolve and to step to the next level.

It is time to reject rape culture and anything that promotes or encourages it.

It is time to collectively embrace the notion of explicit consent and to teach our children and anyone in our circle that the only consent is that which is clearly stated.

No, let is not consent.

As we learned in Kindergarten, Mr. Trump, please keep your hands to yourself.


Author: Lisa Vallejos

Images: Flickr/Ira Gelb ; Flickr/Village9991

Editor: Erin Lawson

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