I will have a great deal more to say about the predators in our midst, and the cowards who give them cover. So much more. Much of it will not be kind.
But I think we’ll start here, with what good people can do to help victims, and what they can do to help stop the assholes who prey on people who can’t stop them. This advice comes from fcmp in a comment on Pharyngula, and I wholeheartedly endorse it.
First, if you really want to know how to help in a specific situation, then assume that victims know that rape is a crime, and that the police exist. Victims can choose what to do with that knowledge. If they do report, give whatever practical and/or emotional support is asked for. If they do not report, give whatever practical and/or emotional support is asked for. And maybe a cup of tea.
I think, though, that the question was more about how to help change this incredibly toxic culture. There have been many suggestions, but I have one more: if you know or strongly suspect that your friend/colleague/partner/whatever is a sexual predator, don’t let your cognitive dissonance keep you from protecting potential victims. Do something. Tell someone. Refuse to be complicit. I don’t believe for one second that I was my rapist’s first victim. I don’t believe that his friends would have been completely shocked had I told them what happened. I believe his girlfriend had an icky feeling in the pit of her stomach that she ignored, because she loved him. Maybe one of them could have helped me stay safe.
I’m sure that at least one of you reading these comments has an icky feeling about someone you like and respect. If you can, please do something.
It doesn’t have to be extremely brave or confrontational, either. That person giving you an icky feeling has probably done things like make disparaging comments about women/transfolk/gays/etc. That person probably makes inappropriate jokes. Boasts about their ability to coerce people into doing things they don’t want to do. Brags about their ability to break the law and get away with it.
What can you do?
- Tell them that’s not cool.
- Don’t laugh at their violent and/or abusive jokes.
- Don’t congratulate them on being clever enough to pull off felonies without getting caught.
- Turn what they’re saying around to show the perspective of the victim in the story.
- Tell other people who may not know these things about that person’s attitude and opinions.
- Refuse to participate if they try to draw you in to their “antics.”
- Turn them in if you find out they’ve broken the law (unless doing so will hurt their victim worse – in which case, you’ll have to follow your conscience).
- Support their victims – not them.
- Trust that instinct that tells you something’s not right.
I’m sure there’s plenty more, and you’re clever enough to figure it out. This is just a start. Some suggestions to get your brain churning.
I wish I’d had fcmp’s advice way back when. I could have stopped a predator. The signs were all there. None of us recognized them, but we should have done. On some level, we knew. And no, no one was really surprised at what he was capable of. In the backs of our minds, we’d known it all along.
Let’s not have endless replays of the same mistakes. Most of us are smarter than that. Most of us have the wisdom and the fortitude to “help change this incredibly toxic culture.”