Written by Hannah Yuan; Edited by Yaron Gu

They say, don’t wear revealing clothing. They say, don’t walk home alone at night. They say, she was “asking for it”. 

She has grown up in a world that puts her at fault. That tells her that she is to blame. That she’s nothing but a nameless face, leaving him with a reputation stained and future ruined. 

So she learns to adapt. She covers up. She wears “sensible” clothes, texts her friend and family where she’ll be and walks home exclusively in sheer daylight. 

And yet. 

And yet. 

The recent kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard has reverberated across the globe, with her story resonating with women everywhere. The experience of living in fear, constantly taking the extra precaution, always on the lookout for danger. We walk home with keys gripped tightly, phone in hand, emergency numbers a dial away, constantly looking over our shoulder. We walk home a different route. 

Sarah’s story is not a new one. 

It has happened before and will happen again and again unless we confront our culture of victim-blaming and toxic masculinity. We need to push for change through education, having those ‘uncomfortable conversations’ and calling out those derogatory jokes that inadvertently normalise rape. To all men, we need to do it together.

March 2021 marks Women’s History Month; a celebration of women’s accomplishments throughout the years and a chance to reflect on the trailblazing women who have instigated change within society. But this month has brought a fresh wave of horrific news for women, each headline streaked with another act of violence. 

Brittany Higgins was weeks into her “dream job” when she was sexually assaulted by a senior colleague in parliament. 

In Atlanta the “massage parlour massacre” saw six Asian-American women shot and killed at the hands of a 21-year-old white man. 

The hyper-sexualisation and fetishization of Asian women have been perpetuated through years of imperialism and colonial history. More contemporarily, they have been cast in the role as either the hardworking model citizen who keeps their head down and contributes to society or the tempting femme fatale. Either way, both roles are subservient and obedient. A damaging stereotype. 

These stories have weighed heavy on hearts. They have seemed to reiterate that we are not safe at work nor the streets. 

And yet. 

And yet. 

A recent petition for sexual consent education to be included in secondary schools, launched on International Women’s Day by Chanel Contos, has garnered over 20 000 signatures to date. As part of the petition, testimonies of student experiences of rape and sexual assault were asked to be sent in. In 3 days, over 2000 testimonies were sent in, detailing personal accounts of sexual assault from women throughout their schooling years in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and New Zealand. 

Grace Tame was named 2021 Australian of the Year for her work in sexual assault advocacy, being a survivor of child sexual abuse herself. From the age of 15, Grace was groomed and molested by her then 58-year-old maths teacher. 

We are not safe at school. We are not safe at work. We are not safe on the streets.  

Under an archaic Tasmanian gag law, Grace was unable to speak up about her experience, despite her case being discussed by the media and even by her abuser. Not until now. After two years of legal battles and campaigning #LetHerSpeak, she finally won the right to her voice.

This month has brought about fresh waves of violence against women and for every step we take forward, there is another step back. It is time to keep pushing for reform, on a global scale, and in our own spheres. To all men, it is time to join the conversation and lift women’s voices. 

In Australia, 1 in 6 women have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15. This statistic has risen by 30% from 2010 to 2018. In 2018-19, almost all (97%) of reported sexual assault offenders were male. 

We say enough is enough. We say, it’s time for men to speak up and hold themselves and their friends accountable. We say, no more statistics, no more headlines, no more. 

What will you say? 

References:

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/petition-calling-for-better-sexual-consent-education-in-nsw-gets-bipartisan-backing
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/mar/15/brittany-higgins-addresses-march-4-justice-rally-as-women-demand-action-across-australia
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-56178290
https://theconversation.com/sarah-everard-why-women-shouldnt-have-to-risk-trading-their-freedom-for-safety-157029
https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/domestic-violence/sexual-assault-in-australia/contents/summary
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-12/grace-tame-speaks-about-abuse-from-schoolteacher/11393044?nw=0
https://www.smh.com.au/national/it-started-on-instagram-now-chanel-s-petition-is-leading-a-sex-education-revolution-20210305-p5780k.html
https://www.britannica.com/event/womens-movement

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