To help bring about societal change, one must first become familiar with what a rape culture is.
In her book “Transforming a Rape Culture,” Emilie Buchwald defines it as “a set of complex beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women ... in a rape culture, both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable.”
A byproduct of that culture is “victim blaming,” or the tendency to blame the victim for the crime, rather than the perpetrator.
“Women are told to change their own behavior in order to avoid being assaulted or raped ... to dress less provocatively, drink less alcohol and not put themselves in risky situations,” states the Women’s Health Research Institute. “This (spreads) the belief that women are at fault when they are attacked, and leads to a lack of accountability for men.”
Faith said police who responded to her case at the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia in 2011 were skeptical of the fact she didn’t immediately try to leave the scene of her rape, she says.
“I was in a part of town that I didn’t feel safe in, my clothes were ripped,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave where I was. I didn’t want to alarm the person who had attacked me.”
Faith also recalls that at first the term “sexual assault” was easier for her to mentally digest than “rape.”
“‘The detective repeatedly asked me if I had been raped and I kept saying no,” she says. “And then he said, ‘Well, you’re telling me that he penetrated you without consent. You have bruises all over you ... did he rape you?’ It took about three times of him asking me for me to really say it out loud. ‘Yes. He raped me.’”
“To accept ‘rape’ meant that my life was going to be radically different,” she continues. “I had to heal from something. It meant that I had to deal with it.”
The path to healing
Surviving a rape or assault causes effects that people have to manage for the rest of their lives. It’s been a little over eight years since Faith survived that trauma, and she’s getting stronger along her healing journey every day.
“It’s a long process,” says Alice Williams, a licensed therapist who specializes in trauma. “Victims will always have triggers, but they are able to handle it better with therapy and as time goes by. They realize they can get through this.”
That’s why crisis centers such as the SAC provide victim resources, curricula for prevention education in schools, as well as law enforcement training sessions. It’s a tough subject, but by educating people about the importance of consent, recognizing warning signs and not blaming victims, these crisis centers help put a dent in breaking down rape culture.
Living through her assault has made Faith appreciate the foundation of strength her friends and advocates helped her build brick by brick.
“I experienced an assault, but I also experienced finding courage, standing up for myself, getting therapy and all of the women who surrounded me and supported me. I wouldn’t take that experience out of my life. It helped shape me. I am grateful for that healing.”
Faith says society must continue to build a world that supports victims who come forward, doesn’t blame them and works toward the prevention of sexual assault — as well as getting mental health support for those who violently seek power and control. In that sense, anyone can become an advocate for victims.
Kim Davis, executive director of the SAC, echoes Faith’s sentiments, and said the SAC will always be there for victims who need their services.
“We as a society don’t believe victims like we really should,” says Davis. “I feel like it’s a fight advocates are always going to fight. But that’s why we’re here.”
For anyone in the NWGA region who is struggling with assault, abuse and its associated effects please contact the Sexual Assault Center of NWGA www.sacnwga.org or find your nearest crisis center https://centers.rainn.org/.