I don’t want to write another article about how tragic, and terrifying it is that Brett Kavanaugh is now a Supreme Court Justice of the United States of America. I don’t want to write another think piece on what it is like to be assigned female at birth, trans, or nonbinary in the era of “Me, Too” and, what that means following Kavanaugh’s confirmation. I also don’t want to write another heart wrenching article about what it is like to relive traumatic events every single day as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse. We don’t need another article about the pain, the suffering, the un realistic normality that the past few years we have created. But I will write an article acknowledging that these are all important topics to think about, read about, and begin to work into our everyday life. Because this is our reality.
So what do we do now? What CAN we do now? What can I do, as a singular human, in a world full of uncertainty, fear, and misinformation?
We can check in with those who may be struggling.
The recent political news cycle has affected numerous people. Perhaps some of those folks are more obvious than others. Take a moment and ask a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a relationship in which you can honestly check in, and ask….”how are you?”. If someone is voicing their struggle, continue to see how they are coping. If someone is not voicing their struggle, don’t feel you need to wrestle it out of them. Do your best in helping them work through it, and continue to remind people in your life that they are not alone, and don’t have to bear the weight of an entire government solely on their shoulders. It isn’t your job to offer therapeutic support, but to offer what you can, and sometimes a small check in can go a long way. In a toxic culture, kindness is powerful.
We can show empathy for the despair and anger our peers may be feeling.
Perhaps you are not quite so affected by the goings on in the world, and by the confirmation of Kavanaugh. That’s great, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show empathy for those who may be feeling negative emotions. You don’t have to completely understand where their emotions are rooted, but being a good supportive ally in any respect means you listen to the thoughts of people from a different viewpoint. Those experiencing heavy emotions may need that support, and may need validation that their potentially intense emotions are okay to feel, and not an overreaction. It is worth noting that while you are showing empathy and caring for others, you should still be aware of your own well being and pull back when needed.
We can become active bystanders in sexual assault prevention.
What does it mean to be an active bystander? What does it mean to prevent sexual assault? A bystander is a person who may witness a situation but may not know what to do. Being an active bystander is being able to call out people who are perpetuating rape culture or making fun of survivors. It is being able to notice red flag scenarios that may lead to a situation of sexual violence and knowing how to safely intervene. Reducing sexual violence is about understanding consent and looking out for those around us.
A great resource for increasing your awareness as a bystander is Isabella Rotman’s book Not on My Watch: A bystanders’ handbook for the prevention of sexual violence. The book is av
ailable as a free-ebook here: http://www.isabellarotman.com/not-on-my-watch/
We can become more informed on positive affirmative consent.
There is not a set definition of consent. Some people define it as verbal affirmation, but that may not always be the case in every relationship. Consent and Coercion are all about power, and not every group of people feel like they can hold or give power in the same way that others can. That is why it is important to continue to read and learn about various ways consent can be upheld in
relationships, and why it is even more important to continue to find ways to keep consent active in relationships (of all kinds). Consent isn’t inherently sexual, it is about communication and creating spaces that we can be safe in. Both public and private experiences deserve to be safe. We need to start paying attention to the consent we do or don’t give in all of our interactions and work to be better.
A great resource for building our knowledge about consent is Cindy Crabb’s curation Learning Good Consent: Building Ethical Relationships in a Complicated World. This book is a collection of thoughts on consent from various sources that create a cohesive overview for your own thought stimulation. The book can be found here: https://microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/books/2879
We can learn about those who are working for victims and survivors.
The best way that we can combat a world in which sexual violence is so prevalent is being prepared to hand out information to those who, unfortunately, may need it and support organizations doing good work to lift the voices of survivors. No matter how connected you are to a survivor community, you should still be prepared, able, and ready to distribute this important information. RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) has curated a wonderful list of resources for all kind of sexual assault and violence, including hotlines that are available to those who need them: https://www.rainn.org/national-resources-sexual-assault-survivors-and-their-loved-ones
We can inform ourselves on birth control and safe sexual practices
In a time where rights of those assigned female at birth are more at siege everyday it becomes more important for us to educate ourselves in safe sex and birth control methods, regardless of your gender or sex assigned at birth. Not all of us have had a complete sex education, and fewer of us have had an inclusive and sex positive sex education. These are the
times that we need to make sure we understand what it means to be safe, regardless of the reproductive system that we possess. Luckily, there are many resources out there to not only learn about birth control and safe sex practices, but there are places to go to receive these services.
Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan are about to publish the first in a 3 part series on sexual education called Drawn to Sex: The Basics. This graphical representation of sex ed covers consent, birth control for all bodies, and safe sex practices. It can be found here: http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Drawn-to-Sex/Erika-Moen/9781620105443
Scarleteen is also a great resource for sexuality and sexual health, bringing in numerous guests to write columns and comics on the topics, all delightfully located here: http://www.scarleteen.com/
For more information and continuous health support, Planned Parenthood is one of the best local resources to obtain more information of safe sexual practices, receive birth control, or other general sexual health related care. Planned Parenthood also is able to cater to people who often can’t afford coverage, making sexual health practice more accessible.
We can become kinder, more thoughtful, more attentive in our interactions with others.
I’ll admit it, the world is cruel. The political climate is crueler, in particular to specific marginalized groups. We don’t know who may be affected negatively on any given day so the best that we can offer is to simply be kind. Treat the people around us with as much kindness that we can muster in the day, and pay attention to our interactions with others. Did you say something that may have been received in a poor way? Are you holding yourself accountable for your actions, intended or not, to others? Are you being patient with people who may need it? Are you and those around you speaking with words that are potentially harmful? Are your actions inclusive? We can all work on how thoughtfully we interact with the world around us, and now is just a good a time as any.