Finding the Helpers

Trigger warnings: Rape, sexual assault, mysogyny

Full disclosure: I am beginning this by rage-posting. I’m so angry. I’m not going to go back and proofread my anger, so now that’s a thing you know. I just heard on NPR that Betsy DeVos is beginning a plan to implement a roll-back of the protections available on campus to survivors of sexual assault. That alone made me really mad. Why would you do this? Who is this benefitting? Literally no one.

The NPR story started out by citing Candice Jackson, “who leads the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights” basically said that rapes reported on college campuses are almost completely the result of both parties being drunk and one regretting it and also of women claiming that they were raped after a break-up with their boyfriend.

(This is the NYT article where I got some of my info. I couldn’t find the specific NPR story.)

Not only is her view of rape horrendously heteronormative it completely plays into the stereotype that most women lie about being raped. This is completely untrue. It’s a lie that angry men tell when they want to rape women without getting in trouble.

I am. Furious.

The facts are that less than 2% of all rape accusations are false. Pressing charges against a rapist is a long and difficult process that many survivors decide to avoid. WHY WOULD SOMEONE LIE AND THEN SUBJECT THEMSELF TO JUDGEMENT AND PAIN AND POTENTIAL HUMILIATION AND VICTIM-BLAMING??? THEY WOULDN’T.

Additionally, if someone is drunk and cannot understand EXACTLY what they are consenting to their consent is impossible. Notice the lack of gendered language. Any person who is too drunk to fully and comprehensively and completely (how many synonyms do I need to use before people understand?) understand what they are consenting to then they are too drunk to give their consent. It is the responsibility of the active partner to make this judgement.

Both/All people have been drinking and are not sure that their partner(s) can consent? Don’t have sex. Just to be absolutely clear that no one is having sex without understand exactly what’s happening. I’m not victim-blaming. This is the message that we, as an entire society/nation/world should be sending to everyone else in the world.

Not sure if they’re too drunk? Don’t have sex with them. Don’t rape them.

This is not a difficult concept. Here’s the Tea Consent video that is a really easy metaphor to help people understand this. It’s not the clean version that I show my students.

But this isn’t even what mad me the most angry. No. Possibly because I hear this argument all the time, but this blatant disregard of facts and people’s lived experience isn’t even what made my commute home edged in red. What made me truly and profoundly angry is that DeVos is seeking out the opinions of multiple different groups before she makes the concrete decision. This should be a good thing, right? No. Because the foundation of this action is a disregard for women’s voices. I say women because the majority of rapes are reported by women. That by no means means that men do not experience rape. Male rape survivors just tend to be much less likely to report their assault. I could go into why that’s a result of the toxic masculinity that we are constantly plagued by, but that’s a topic for a whole other post. Or series of posts. Or a fucking book.

So, DeVos is reaching out to survivors (good), alleged offenders (less good), and “Men’s rights advocate” groups (flames. fire burning on the sides of my face. smoke). “Men’s rights advocates” are a bunch of self-entitled, ignorant, pissbabies. “Men’s rights advocates” have no right to have input into this issue. They are part of the systemic problem that culminates in the rape culture we are surrounded by. 2017 is an ugly circus of fools and hatred.

So, that was my drive home. Just rage for 40 solid minutes. And a semi that almost ran me off the road, because the driver was drifting in and out of their lane. So that was super helpful for my mood.

But I can’t sustain this. I refuse to live my life constantly angry about all the crazy shit that’s happening in the US and the world. I will not let myself stew in it and do nothing. I will continue to call my elected officials. I will protest and do what I can to fight for what I believe is right. But something else that I can do is more personal.

When I get super frustrated and angry I try and do something positive for myself, and one of the things that helps me is to look for the helpers like Mr. Rogers said.

By now I’m sure most people have heard/seen the Mr. Rogers story about his mom telling him to look for the helpers. In case you haven’t, here’s a link to the video. It’s an awesome sentiment, and one I find very comforting. I try to be a helper when I can, and to look for and acknowledge them when I need to.

So here’s my first helper:

This last weekend was the LGBTQIA+ Pride festival in my city. I was there helping at a booth for the first part of the day and then got to walk around and look at all the booths. This was the biggest Pride event here in the last three years at least. There were kids and families and groups of teenagers and older couples and everyone was just wandering around in this amazing atmosphere of acceptance. One of the booths was PFLAG and their trans support group, Transformations. One part of the booth was just a big sign that said “Free Mom Hugs.” And there was a middle-aged woman there who would give you a hug if you wanted one. (Writing it out like that it sounds kinda creepy, but it really wasn’t I swear.) I know generally and also anecdotally from some of the youth who I work with that hugs from a supportive parent aren’t always readily available for youth who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

It’s something like 40% of homeless youth identify in some was a part of this community. It is not uncommon for family support to change or to disappear when someone comes out. And sometimes a hug from a safe and supportive figure can make a big difference even just for the next hour. I love hugs from people I feel very comfortable with. And as someone not surrounded by people who I feel comfortable hugging very often (most of my family lives over an hour away), I understand (in a limited way) just how much difference a hug from Mom can make. So the helper I found today is that woman standing there waiting for someone to come along who needs a hug.

Have you found any helpers recently?


PS: I’m sorry that I used the word fuck and referenced Mr. Rogers in the same post. And if my mom reads this, I’m sorry you read me saying fuck.


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