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Sexual Assault: Society's Responsibility

For Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month, we are joining with the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault in focusing on the responsibility of society versus the responsibility of the individual. In terms of individual responsibility, the media often shines a light on how not to be a victim, or what to do if you are a victim. We also focus on how to get and give consent. Those are good lessons, and we want the LGBT community to know that the Montrose Center offers counseling, advocacy, and accompaniment. Call our anti-violence program at 713.529.0037 or through the LGBT Switchboard 24-hour helpline at 713.529.3211.

But what TAASA and the Montrose Center are focusing on this year is the social climate that allows for sex to be a weapon. Various studies connect power and control with gender roles, which is something we are very familiar with in our community.

According to TAASA’s Break the Box Pledge:

Sexual violence isn’t just about rape or physical harassment. It begins when we hurt people through the words we use and attitudes we carry. Stereotypes of what it means to be a man or woman—for instance, boys should do physical activities and girls need to be “ladylike”—can limit our worth and potential, and create an unequal balance of power that perpetuates sexual violence.

How powerful is that? We commend TAASA for being LGBT inclusive in all of its materials. TAASA’s Facebook and Twitter pages have been updated every day this month, and many of the messages are affirming to our community. They’ve gotten negative feedback from people who won’t take the pledge to speak out against gender stereotypes and posted this explanation to the naysayers who shifted the conversation away from treating one another with respect:

It is important to note that this campaign isn’t about making all things equal. It is about getting rid of the expectations that come along with gender stereotypes. Those expectations box us in and create an environment where sexual violence, in all its forms, is more likely to occur. For example, masculinity is often measured by the number of sexual partners a guy has had. This creates pressure for all men to be sexually aggressive. At the same time femininity is often measured by how good a woman is at being a caretaker or how submissive she is or by her physical appearance (or all of the above). This creates pressure for all women to be thin, pretty, and available to serve men. If men are taught and expected to be sexually aggressive and women are taught and expected to be submissive – particularly to men, it is easy to see how that creates space in our society for rape and other forms of violence to happen. We believe that in order to change that dynamic, we have to “break the box” of gender stereotypes.

TAASA and other rape-crisis organizations are using the Social Justice League as the backdrop of spreading the word through social media. Because TAASA has taken such a public stand to educate about a topic that impacts our community in so many ways, from bullying to sexual assault, we recognize them as a superhero during Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month.

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