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In a rape culture, love will liberate

Katie Eichele

“Love liberates.” — Maya Angelou

I tell myself this when I’m faced with times where hearts are hurting, anger brews, and there’s an ache to be heard and understood. This month, The Aurora Center at the University of Minnesota celebrates its 30 year anniversary. As I reflect on our mission to advocate for victims of sexual and relationship violence and on our center’s 30 years of work in this area, I remind our community of the many aspects of rape culture and of the work still to be done in our nation.

Rape culture includes unhealthy and damaging attitudes about gender and sexuality that are normalized in our society. Prominent and consistent behaviors that perpetuate rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denying the prevalence of rape and refusing to acknowledge the severe harm caused by sexual violence.

Rape culture is having to sit everyday with females, males and folks beyond the gender binary who have had their dignity and safety stripped away, their spirit killed, but then are expected to get up and get living.

Rape culture is having society tell you from childhood that your main value is your looks and body in order to fulfill someone else’s sexual gratification.

Rape culture is having to tell victims, students, professionals, mothers, fathers and friends impacted by sexual violence that trauma is a lifelong recovery process, and that they won’t just “get over it” as others might tell them to.

Rape culture is much more than blaming the victim.

Last month, a video was released to the nation with comments from the now president-elect that reinforce rape culture, but were coined as “locker room talk.” Overwhelmingly, people from all walks of life recognized and named the comments as sexual assault and demonstrated how they perpetuate rape culture.

Hearts are hurting. But as I reflect, I see that:

People are speaking out.

People are sharing survivor stories.

People are calling for accountability.

People are working to stop rape culture.

People are being heroes.

Maya Angelou also said, “a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”

Love does liberate.

Katie Eichele is the director of The Aurora Center for Advocacy & Education.

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