The Minnesota Supreme Court just last month overturned a rape conviction because of their definition of “mental incapacitation,” which essentially says that anyone who gets drunk and is rendered incapacitated, i.e. passed out, is at fault for being raped. I, personally, was unaware that Minnesota is one of 40 states that does not explicitly prohibit sex with a voluntarily intoxicated victim, meaning the victim must take responsibility for the poor choices of their rapist. These justices ruled that the state’s definition of rape does not include voluntarily inebriated victims. What it means for victims is that when they report, they can be told that technically their sexual assault was legal. Just let that sink in for a moment. This loophole remains open until further legislation closes it, and it’s dangerous and heartbreaking.
Stories like this hit our news feeds and it takes a profound toll on survivors and advocates alike. I mean, what century are we in anyway?! What we have here is a fundamentally flawed, misguided, and archaic system that perpetuates values that none of us should ever accept or tolerate–like allowing rapists to have zero accountability, or defending and minimizing their actions, both of which make it possible for them to basically ride off into the sunset, free to commit this crime again.
Victims, on the other hand, are blamed, nicked, and cut deeper and deeper every time we force them to defend what they were wearing (nick), what they ate for breakfast that day (cut), how many partners they had before the assault (nick), how drunk they were (cut), why they were there alone (nick), why they didn’t fight back (cut), and so on. Re-victimization by a thousand cuts. People blame victims because it is easier to change our opinion than it is to change our behavior. It is the path of least resistance. It is, quite simply, the easy way out, and it happens again and again and again.
In fact, any real progress made when it comes to the crime of sexual violence comes solely at the expense of all the survivors who have come forward to share their truth and tell their stories. But why? Why do survivors have to do all the work – shoulder all the undeserved blame, shame, and trauma? Why do we protect perpetrators of sexual violence? Why do we have laws that allow this to continually happen? Who is responsible for change?
Sexual violence is everyone’s responsibility to address because everyone has a survivor in their life – whether you know it or not and whether you accept it or not. This is true. Every. Single. Person. I know that’s a tough realization. But it is statistically implausible that you do not know someone who has been affected by this pervasive crime, my friends.
We, together, can make a difference here. There are helpful things that all of us can do to shift the conversation away from protecting the abuser to where it rightfully belongs: in supporting the survivor. We can—and must— continue to chip away at victim blaming, ensure that survivors have resources to help them with the trauma they’ve endured, and focus on preventing sexual violence through appropriate conversations with youth and teens. We can educate on consent and that yes and only yes means yes.
Here’s what you can do right now to help:
- Believe survivors, as this sets the tone for others to find their voice and speak up without fear.
- Correct someone who is using victim blaming language. It is no longer enough to put band-aids on all those nicks and cuts.
- Make sure children understand boundaries and consent. (Watch The Women’s Center’s educational video on consent here.)
- Get involved with The Women’s Center.
- Use your voice.
Historically, silence has allowed perpetrators to control everything. It’s still happening today. And, it is time to make sure that the future is different. No more silence! We need each and every one of you! The more voices we have, the more we will be heard, the harder we will be to ignore, and the safer and healthier our community will become.
Thank you for standing with survivors and The Women’s Center during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and always. Please continue to stand up and make your voice heard!