For most people, April is best known for April fool but it’s also Sexual Assault Awareness month. As an almost victim or shall I say survivor of 2 near rape incidents, I consider myself extremely lucky. According to Red My Lips, Sexual Violence is a term that describes a wide range of behaviors including:
- invasion of space & leering
- sexual harassment in person or online
- taking and/or distributing sexual photos/videos without consent
- unwanted sexual touching, kissing, groping
- vaginal, anal, or oral penetration without consent
- sexual contact with someone who is incapacitated or unable to give consent
- child sexual abuse
- human trafficking
Red My lips is an international nonprofit organization designed to raise visibility and awareness about the realities and prevalence of sexual violence, while combating rape myths and victim-blaming. They run an annual global awareness and action campaign where fierce and fearless supporters rock red lipstick all throughout the month of April to demonstrate solidarity and support for survivors and start important conversations with people in their lives.
We all know someone who experienced sexual violence in some of the forms stated in examples above. Often we accept it even when uncomfortable because we don’t know who to turn to or where to get the necessary help. I know I didn’t, the second time it almost happened to me, I took off and ended up in Johannesburg. I’ve only disclosed the details to about 3 people and everyone keeps telling me how lucky I am. I find it extremely frustrating because that’s not a society that I want to live in. A society where the fact that I managed to avoid it somehow justify that it almost happened in the first place. One of the things that angers me is when the victim are being blamed for the incident. In my case I worked until 21h00, got off the bus around 22h00 and had a 15 minute walk home because I had no other alternatives. Just because I walked the streets of Cape Town after 22h00 doesn’t give you the right to try and rape me, if anything else it gives you the right to make sure I get home safely.
According to Red My Lips , “victim-blaming includes any statement or question that focuses on what a victim of sexual violence did or didn’t do, implying that their behavior makes them fully or partly responsible for being assaulted or for failing to prevent their assault. Victim-blaming typically stems from commonly held myths and misconceptions about sexual violence,along with people’s desire to distance themselves from these types of crimes. One of the most common examples of victim-blaming is saying someone was “asking for it.” However, victim-blaming is frequently less direct and at times unintentional.”
I stumbled upon this amazing initiative last year and joined via their Facebook page. You can support them by donating on their site, plan an event and spread the word via social media or share your story with them. The red lipstick is used as a weapon, a tool to create visibility and combat the damaging myths and victim-blaming attitudes that lead many survivors (from all walks of life) to suffer in silence.
Bear in mind that sexual violence is NOT a “women’s issue,” it is a human issue and men can also get involved. Men’s voices are not only welcome but vital if we truly want to transform our culture of sexual violence. While the majority of rapists are men, the majority of men are not rapists. Many men stay silent because they believe sexual violence is a ‘women’s issue.’ but sexual violence impacts us all. In order for real change to occur, we ALL need to join together and speak out. If you don’t want to wear red lipstick you’re welcome to wear red clothing or draw the logo on your skin to show your support to this worthy cause. Let’s all join together and put an end to sexual violence and victim-blaming.
Content and pictures courtesy of redmylips.org