Rape culture is real – and recent trending discussions on Twitter reaffirm this ugly reality.
On Tuesday, tweets about rape culture flooded timelines as they delivered some troubling facts.
Zerlina Maxwell — a feminist writer, political analyst and frequent contributor for theGrio — took to Twitter to speak out against a recent op-ed article published in Time titled “It’s Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria.”
The article, written by Caroline Kitchens of the American Enterprise Institute, rejects the idea that rape culture exists and argues that the root of the issue stems from the conscious actions of individuals.
The op-ed references controversial positions held by the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, which wrote a letter to a White House task force on college sexual assault denying cultural factors that surround rape and instead claiming that sexual assaults are a result of the decisions made by of a small percentage of people.
“It was an ignorant opinion,” Maxwell told theGrio in a phone interview Thursday. “It was written by someone who, seemed to me, as someone who never experienced sexual assault and really doesn’t know much about it fundamentally.”
“It was like, ‘wow this person doesn’t know what they’re talking about,'” she added. “It was almost as if it was written in another universe.”
Mawell, who has publicly discussed being a victim of sexual assault herself in the past, took to Twitter to defend the legitimacy of rape culture.
In doing so, she launched a discussion that quickly took over the Twittersphere: #RapeCultureIsWhen.
Hundreds of responses came pouring in, tackling the myth that rape culture is non-existent and shedding light on the harsh, shared reality of hundreds of men and women.
Here are a few tweets:
“When I see [sexual assault] survivors telling their personal stories and being empowered by that, I feel like I’ve done something helpful,” Maxwell said. “I started a hashtag, I didn’t start a revolution. It was on a whim and I just thought this hashtag worked.”
“In a way, it was an experiment – there’s so many people out there that want to talk about their experiences and not feel like people are attacking them,” she added.
Maxwell, who has a substantial following on Twitter with over 33,000 followers, says that the hashtag sparked the first big social media discussion she has initiated. But she admits that the high engagement rate was not something that came as a surprise, citing that the responses reflect reactions from real survivors.
Statistics show that 1 in 4 college woman are sexually assaulted while 1 in 5 women fall victim to the same crime throughout their lifetime.
“I think that the activity is online because survivors see it as a tool to educate and organize and get other people engaged about that is what is happening,” Maxwell said.
Twitter has proven to be a useful tool in bringing such discussions to the limelight.
Just last week, Twitter user Christine Fox sparked another conversation on sexual assault that prompted hundreds of users to answer: “What were you wearing when you were sexually assaulted?”
It was a simple question, but one that invited users to share a little information that illuminated a much more telling and graphic picture.
“The vast majority of tweets are helpful. People are so open about their experiences and willing to engage others,” Maxwell said. “Hashtags or real on the ground activism coupled with online activism is why we’re talking bout this issue more and it’s the way to change people ways of thinking.”
“The more people talk about it, the more survivors are talking about it. It’s empowering.”
Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works