Culture and society
Racism, sexual violence, and violence against LGBTQ+ people are examples of violent behavior that society has turned a blind eye to for far too long. This means that violent behavior against certain groups has been allowed to thrive throughout society. Rape culture is one of the concepts we use to shed light on this.
Rape culture is often illustrated using a three-layered pyramid that shows the connection between unconscious attitudes and harassment or violence. Prejudice and values that are often put forth unconsciously are the base of the pyramid; this maintains rape culture in society. These can be prejudice towards foreigners or people of colour, or sexism. The center of the pyramid is language that plays down the seriousness of harassment or violence. An example of that could be jokes about rape. Anything that makes us feel like violence, harassment or bullying is a normal part of our culture. The top of the pyramid is the actual harassment or violence that thrives in this culture.
Changing culture through prevention
Through the years, gender-based violence has been an example of violent behavior that has been silenced and allowed to thrive. One of the ways we can prevent it is through a coordinated societal effort to respond when we witness sexual violence or harassment: to no longer be silent.
The pyramid helps us decide when we want to respond. Most people would probably respond if they witnessed sexual violence in progress (the top layer of the pyramid). Naturally, people should respond to that: stop it. This, however, only reduces the damage that has already been done because at that point the violence has happened. For us to be able to say that we are preventing gender-based violence, we need to examine how we can stop it from happening.
It may be difficult to understand how you can prevent violence from happening even long before it might happen. Stepping in when friends, family, strangers, or colleagues show prejudice or attitudes that we do not approve of. We do not feel like we are responsible for how others act and we even ignore or participate in a joke that we know to be sexist.
While it is true that we are not responsible for what other people do it is a fact that people who are violent towards others use attitudes like these as an excuse for their actions. By responding to the “little“ things, you can reduce the space that perpetrators have for their violent behavior. You take away their excuse. You improve the culture so that everybody can safely enjoy themselves.