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The justice system can’t end sexual assault

Sexual assault has been around for a very long time and will not be solved by simply prosecuting and firing offenders. Without the deliberate rewiring of the thoughts, beliefs and practices that hold the patriarchal model in place, we will simply continue as we have for the past 2,000 years or so.

We can’t afford to wait for the slow churn of evolution here — we need to consciously examine how our daily lives reinforce the very root of violence against women. And it’s not just violence against women, but also children, animals and nature itself. The very planet that gives us life is swept up in this unconscionable system of violence and submission.

Unspeakably horrific acts are committed against women and children every day. We live in a culture where women are still afraid of walking down the street, despite all of the advancements we think that we have made. It is beyond due for us to understand: REAL change cannot be legislated. It must be learned. Making crimes against women illegal and punishable is a valuable step, but not a solution.

Our culture has expected, condoned, accepted and tolerated treating women as less than and helpless. Unfortunately, there are plenty of women who buy into this thinking as well as men. Solving the problem is not as simple as firing someone or forcing them to resign. The change must come from a better way of relating that is focused on understanding the root of the problem — rather than sheer force and dominance.

I am NOT suggesting a world in which women are viewed as ‘better than’ men. We deserve to give each other a society in which we are all brought to the table to find the solution. This will take time. We will have to speak up. We will need to stop defending the behavior of attackers. We will need to identify and let go of our own attachments to patriarchal values. We will need to embrace the possibility that dominance over others isn’t the solution to insecurity. We are complex and so is the solution.

This movement of change is part of our evolution. Focusing only on crime and punishment allows us to avoid adapting, understanding, and changing. I am not suggesting that abusers should not be punished. But I am saying that we have to get a grip on how this kind of redefining actually works and follow through with it. We must wake up and change or the problem will only shape-shift and get bigger.

We must start with the way we raise our children. For those of us who have already been raised with a myriad of false and prejudicial thoughts, we have to stop ourselves and interrupt each other every time we notice it. We have been conditioned not to notice or simply to accept as sexist, racist and bigoted beliefs. This has had and will continue to have terrible consequences for women — and for the world in which we live.

Take the time to educate yourself and read the research. Talk to people in your community. Join a neighborhood watch program or mentor someone. Teach kids how to see each other with respect and curiosity — rather than through differences. Stop stereotyping girls and boys in books, movies, and even the color of their clothes and toys. This is the fundamental level where the problem starts. While doing these things, also support the people who make laws and policies to make the long overdue changes needed to stop sexual assault. Don’t stop there. We have a lot of work to do.

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