I went for a job interview today at the local sexual assault prevention agency. Walking into the building, I first passed a wall of mirrors, and glanced at my reflection to make sure I didn’t have anything in my teeth. I then entered a waiting room with a bit of activity and sat down. I signed some confidentiality papers and then waited for my interviewer to arrive.
My interviewer, Vera, arrived and invited me back to her office for the interview. The back wall of her office was completely made out of window pane, and framed a perfect view of the city skyscape. A bookshelf stood next to the view, and the cover of the recent book, “Missoula” stood out to me.
Vera introduced herself, talking with her hands and showcasing her color tattoos covering her arms. She had a welcoming and reassuring smile, yet I was still uptight and anxious as I usually am in interviews.
We began the interview by discussing dismantling rape culture at its roots. Rape culture describes a society whose prevailing social attitudes normalize or trivialize sexual assault and abuse. In our society, 1/4 girls are sexually assaulted before the age of 18, and 1/6 boys are sexually assaulted before the age of 18. According to feminist theory and experience that sexual assault organizations face daily, we live in a rape culture.
The job I was interviewing for would entail being an elementary sexual assault education presenter and addressing healthy and unhealthy ways of interacting. The lessons would essentially try to educate and start communication in kids before they are able to latch onto mainstream ideas that are toxic toward treatment of women, views on sex, and rape.
Vera looked at me and asked me why I think that sexual violence exists in society. I took a deep breath. I said that I thought it had to do with lack of respect for certain populations such as women, people of color, people who are disabled, the list goes on (all the “isms”: racism, sexism, etc.).
“With rape culture constantly looming over our heads, how will you handle it, and face it daily? What will you do for self care?”
I said that I did that by staying present. By working with and listening to the person right in front of you, you could allow yourself to let the world problems go, and focus on what you can do right now and here. Also, setting boundaries is important, and being able to shut off thoughts about work and the people you’ve talked to after you clock out. Though it’s hard, it’s essential to preventing burnout.
“When I saw that you had experience at a domestic violence shelter from a few years ago, that’s really what caught my eye and made me want to interview you. Once you do work like that and are on the other end of the hotline taking calls from people in crisis, it’s in your blood. You might take breaks from it, but you keep coming back.”
I left her office in the basking light of feminist solidarity, and realized that this was something that I would keep coming back to for the rest of my life, whether I got this particular job or not. Violence is far too prevalent in our society, particularly violence against women and people of color, and I want to be there to help dismantle whatever the fuck it is that keeps creating this violence. One interview, one story, one temporary job at a time.
Later that night I visited my mom, and we watched the news together. The news tonight was about two girls who had been murdered by the same ex boyfriend, seven years apart. My mom commented that “men are just bad. There’s something wrong with the patterns we see in the world.”
I sadly agreed in that moment. Sure, there are guys that are not particularly violent or aggressive, but unfortunately aggression and violence happens way too often in the male community. Is it our culture’s fault? How do we fix it?
My mom then mentioned that she was reading the book, “Missoula,” about the rape trial surrounding a football team, and how the community supported the accused over the victims, because of the celebrity of their sportsmanship. It brought me full circle back to the interview from earlier today, and the book that I saw on Vera’s shelf next to her cityskyscape view. How do you deal with rape culture on a daily basis?
I don’t think that I am right for this community educator position, because public speaking is not my forte at all. But I believe wholeheartedly in the mission. Education and communication is how we begin to uncover the roots of violence, and to curb it. Let’s talk. I’ll write.