Thursday 5 June 2014

Students respond to sexual violence

*Potential trigger warning* - discussion of sexual violence.

Just over a month ago, two female Victoria University students were sexually attacked on the 'City to Sea' pathway connecting the Boyd Wilson Field to the Terrace in Wellington. The pathway is a common route for students at our university as it is near university accommodation and a popular route home for students who live in the area. 

As a response to the attacks, the media chose to comment on the fact that the path is "not a safe area" with statements from Police advising young women and students not to walk home through the area, and instead suggesting they travel home from the city in a taxi or walk in groups. The attacks resulted in increased calls for improved lighting, extra foot patrols and CCTV footage on the pathway. 

Yup, totally - we need better lighting in that area, we need CCTV footage and we need extra security. But you know what we also need? We need rape to stop. While the media decided to focus attention on the fact that it is our responsibility as women to take a taxi home, or to walk a longer route in order to avoid being attacked, Youth for UN Women (a fabulous group the anthsisters are part of), VUWSA (the Vic student association) and VUWSA's Women's Group decided we needed to put our focus and attention on the bigger issue at hand - rape culture.

Rape culture is an environment in which sexual violence towards women is normalized and excused in the media an popular culture. In our society, we are surrounded with images, language, laws, objectification of bodies and glamorization of sexual violence - all in which disregard the rights and safety of a woman's body. Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, words and imagery that make violence towards women seem so normal that we are made to think the persistence of rape as "just the way things are" (

Most women and girls live in fear of rape, and it is this cycle of fear that is the legacy of rape culture.