Sept '19: Let's Talk About Sex(ual) Abuse

Let's Talk About Sex(ual Abuse)

Before reading further: this newsletter is not appropriate for all audiences. This month's content covers sexual violence and references to abuse.

Welcome to our FIRST EVER Soapbox Project newsletter! Each month, we'll send you one news article-length content blurb about a current social issue, followed by one simple call to action.

What's September's topic?
This month, we're talking about systems of power that are conducive to sexual assault.

It's a heavy topic, and we want you to be informed, but not hopeless. That's why, after reading this newsletter, if you decide to be part of the change, you can donate to WARRIORS, a non-profit dedicated to ending sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Their founding story is super relevant to our discussion - read on to find out more!  

Here's a quick glance at some key events of the past week, nationally and locally.


(You can click the image above to donate to WARRIORS.)

So, what's actually happening?
Over the past few years, sexual assault has become a hot-button topic. The slew of celebrities exposed for sexual misconduct and abuse, the escalation of the #MeToo movement and the #KnowHerName campaign, and the increase in high-profile trials has kept this issue at the center of many discussions. 

Here are some key events that have occurred in the past three years. This month, many of those events have resurfaced with new reporting. 


(You can click the image above to donate to WARRIORS.)

Let's Review: The Brock Turner Rape Case & the Recalled Judge Controversy
We read her statement three years ago, when Chanel Miller was still Emily Doe. It was bone-chilling and soul-shaking. She had gone to a party... and woke up in a hospital. She would find out the news of her sexual assault at the same time everyone else did, because she didn't remember.

And because she didn't remember, it was so easy for her to be erased. 

It wasn't just her identity. It was everything. She'd been reduced to just a victim whose testimony couldn't be completely trusted because she didn't remember what had happened. Her rapist claimed she liked it. The judge in the case, Aaron Persky, gave her rapist only six months in prison. Much of his decision was because the perpetrator had "character letters" (from friends and family) that suggested that before this incident, he was an outstanding person who "complied with social and legal norms sort of above and beyond what normal law-abiding people do." Persky doesn't seem to understand that rape isn't an isolated incident.

When the media reported the case, they erased her too. Many news outlets glossed over the horrific incident to focus on the perpetrator's swim mile time (he was an athlete at Stanford) and his athletic excellence. Persky gave him a light sentence also because he believed that prison would have too much of a "severe impact on him", and many media reports matched this tone. 

Because of his decision, Persky was recalled in 2018. He was the first judge to be recalled in California in almost a century. Then, a few days ago, Lynbrook High School in San Jose hired him to coach high school tennis...for junior varsity girls. 

Why Should We Care?

The reason this was such an irresponsible hiring decision is summed up best by the woman who created the petition to remove Persky from Lynbrook.

"The reason why Persky should never have been hired as the female Junior Varsity Tennis Coach is not because he doesn’t deserve a second chance at any job ever but rather that he is not the appropriate choice to be the mandated reporter for sexual assault and harassment for minors in a high school. Persky made public decision to give Brock Turner a slap on the wrist for his rape of Chanel Miller by sentencing him to a short six months. This showed the world that he did not respect women’s bodily autonomy and did not take the rape as seriously as he should have." - Shivani Kavuluru (Original Post)

These events send strong messages of sexual assault and rape culture, and it's playing out right in our backyard. Schools should have a higher responsibility to the safety and mental well-being of their students and hire staff that promote self-worth and have zero tolerance for harassment of any kind. 

For more information, check out our  emergency episode of Get Schooled Podcast. You can also click here to donate to WARRIORS.

Rape Culture on a National Level
This conversation is already nationally relevant, but in case you need info point to understand its gravity, you can turn to the ongoing Brett Kavanaugh updates. 

As you know, last year, Kavanaugh was appointed to the supreme court despite "convincing testimony" from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that he had attempted to sexually assault her in college. That news is back. 

Kavanaugh allegedly thrust his penis at a woman in college (without warning or consent). This new allegation has led to a media storm with warring press on both sides - in favor of Kavanaugh's impeachment and in defense of him

There are rape cases black and white with little room for public redemption (much like Brock Turner's), and stories like Kavanaugh's which are considered so gray that they divide a nation. But at the heart of all sexual assault and abuse incidents, from rape cases that are nationally recognized to cat calls on the street, there is a larger, more insidious issue at hand.

Patriarchy, unsafe power dynamics, and rape culture lie at the heart of it all. To make progress as a society, we need to disassemble the systems that allow these to thrive.

That's a tall order. What can we do?

This month, we're encouraging that you donate to WARRIORS. Not only do they provide support for survivors of sexual assault, they also "educate communities and institutions about the systems that allow abuse to proliferate, and provide guidance for accountability and prevention." 

In other words, they attempt to take on society's toxic culture at its deepest levels.

Their non-profit actually started as a Facebook page titled "Brock Turner for Prison" and has since evolved into a larger platform for anti-sexual assault. WARRIORS is an excellent example of the momentum that activism and action can create, and the Soapbox Project team is excited to send donations their way to do our part in tackling abuse. 

We're a huge fan of their transparency and donation tiers. You can click the image below to donate, and their donations page gives you more info on where your money goes.  

After you donate, you can raise awareness by sharing your donation on social media (and then your friends will know you're a good person!). Tag us on Facebook at "@Soapbox Project", on Twitter at "@soapboxproject_", or on Instagram at "@soapboxproject".

Thank you!

If you have any feedback on this newsletter, please email us! Since this is our very first newsletter, a member of our team will also contact you and ask if you'd be willing to have a 10-minute conversation to help us improve.  

We're really excited to build a stronger bridge between news and action. If you enjoyed this newsletter, please consider forwarding it to 3 friends who want to be part of the change and encouraging them to subscribe.

Nivi Achanta