I love a good win. I love moments in time when you feel like something tangibly good and real has happened. Even if you know the bigger picture still needs so much work, stopping to exhale is important.
While the last week has been filled with shock, disappointment and rage at the Roast Busters news, the majority of New Zealand’s outrage and calls for action are indisputably a good thing. It’s also, for people working in the sexual violence sector, a very late thing, and possibly a terrifyingly temporary thing.
Willie and JT are off the air. Businesses have decided to distance themselves from victim-blaming. $10K corporate donations from Telecom have been given. People are hearing what ‘rape culture’ is for the first time. Your aunt has said possibly the most progressive thing she’ll ever say on Facebook, something about how it doesn’t matter what these girls were wearing.
You feel like the majority of your bubble is all on the same page. Every now and then you read the rape apologist comments on rape apologist op-eds to remind yourself what you’re against, and just how good and progressive your bubble is. No hate, I’m in that bubble too.
So exhale. Feel weirdly proud of Matthew Hooton. Revel in the momentum of something you’ve cared about for a long time finally getting mainstream support.
But ask yourself what comes after. And be honest about this bubble being exactly that. Because it’s great that pundits red, blue and spotted are all nodding their heads about ending rape culture. But when this momentum dies down, which it will, what happens?
What we can hope and strive for from the Roast Busters fall out is better mainstream recognition of the systemic issues of rape culture. So next time there’s a high-profile sexual violence story, the reporter doesn’t end their piece with tips in italics about how women can keep themselves safe. Next time a young person discloses sexual assault to their friends, they don’t immediately ask why they didn’t go to the cops. Next time someone thinks about mansplaining on talk-back about how clothes or previous sexual activity invites rape, the possible loss of advertising revenue and air time will make them think twice.
But what we need more so than a top down cultural shift, are grassroots resources. We desperately need to pressure the Government, and possibly corporates, to provide sustainable funding for primary prevention of sexual violence. Sexual violence agencies know this inside and out, they understand our communities and we need to help them do this work long term.
We cannot expect a cultural shift to happen without community support.
So what if teenage boys are learning that they’ll get eviscerated for bragging about having sex with a drunk girl? What’s consent? How do you know if you’ve got it? What’s wrong with being drunk? What happens if she consented earlier? What happens if you’ve definitely done something you shouldn’t have and you want to talk about that? How do you make sure you don’t do it again? What happens if you’ve been assaulted and you need to tell someone?
So what if teenage girls are learning that New Zealand might sometimes defend their right to not be raped? What if they’re not sure if they have been raped? What if they’re not comfortable with how they feel pressured to act sexually? What does sexy mean? What is a slut? What if alcohol helps them loosen up? How can they talk to their sexual partners more easily?
I’ll say it again. We cannot expect a cultural shift to happen without community support.
Delight in wins. Feel warmed by the camaraderie of unexpected allies. But if your work on fighting rape culture stops with delighting in watching corporates throw once-off donations at tiny agencies, and applauding the decision to give less airtime to rape apologists, then stop. And think about what lasts longer, the stringing up of perpetrators and public figures, or community investment in prevention?