I follow a Facebook page written by the mother of a Canadian teenager. Rehtaeh Parsons was just 15 when she was raped by four youths who photographed their deeds and distributed the photos, which were subsequently sent out on the internet. Rehtaeh suffered through two years of torment, abuse, harassment and bullying, victim blaming and shaming. She moved towns, hospitalised herself on suicide watch, and eventually moved back to her home town only to have the event still thrown at her. The "justice" system was a farce.
On 4 April 2013 Rehtaeh hung herself. On 7 April her life support was turned off.
Rehtaeh is by no means the only teenager who goes through this incredible torment, but she is one of a growing number whose lives end tragically, because of the insidious nature of the internet and the overwhelming acceptance of rape culture in our society.
Until very recently, rape crisis organisations predominantly used the slogan "No means no". That slogan is still in used extremely valid, but following some highly publicised recent rape cases, the slogan has moved. No longer can a male say that his victim didn't object because she didn't say no. "Yes means yes" recognises that, often, women are not in any position to say no. Date rape drugs have seen to that. Spiked drinks, excessive alcohol, peer pressure.
Nothing... not ONE thing... gives a male the right to have sexual intercourse with or sexually interfere with a female unless she has given informed consent which is not subsequently withdrawn.
It doesn't matter what she wears.
It doesn't matter if she is drunk or drugged.
It doesn't matter if he thinks she gave him the come on.
It doesn't matter if his friends made a bet with him.
It doesn't even matter if she said yes, but then changed her mind.
Your arousal is not her concern.
Your frustration is not her concern.
Her safety IS your concern.
This year's Reclaim the Night event in Brisbane focused on rape culture. It is far too easy, still, in our society, to just accept the discourse that perpetuates rape culture. Do you laugh at sexist jokes, or do you call the tellers out on them? Do you shake your head when you hear of another rape or do you get angry and take action? Have you stood with sexual violence survivors and said "Enough!"? Have you opened your mouth, even once, to affirm your opposition to rape culture? If not, why not? Silence is tacit acceptance.
And that is why and how rape culture perpetuates. It's not a hard fight. It's a just fight, an honest one, one that can be easily won simply by calling it out wherever and whenever you see it, and reminding people that it's not okay.
And that only YES means yes.