Create Change

The pyramid of Sexual Violence is a tool developed by anti-sexual violence educators to help make the connection between different forms of sexual violence more clear. It also illustrates that our foundational attitudes and beliefs can contribute to an environment where sexual violence is allowed to continue.

Sexual violence is rooted in power, control, and entitlement. When someone engages in sexually violent behaviour, they are disregarding the needs, boundaries, and autonomy of another person or person(s), and are instead choosing to act in their own self-interest.

As such, it makes sense that the foundation of the Pyramid of Sexual Violence is made up of the sort of attitudes and beliefs--for example, the belief that someone is entitled to accessanother person’s body because they’re married or because they bought them a drink--that designate certain people as ‘less than’ others. Ultimately, these attitudes and beliefs are directly connected to systems of inequality that serve to dehumanize and devalue some folks, while providing privilege to others.

This means we can also use this diagram as an ‘anti-sexual violence’ tool since it shows the possible areas of intervention! The base of the pyramid is the easiest place to intervene, and if we want to prevent sexual violence, a big part of the puzzle is challenging systems like racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc.

This is so important because, if we destabilize this foundation, everything above it crumbles. And when everything above those attitudes and beliefs crumbles, that means  we’re creating environments where sexual violence is never justifiable, and where community members are holding each other--and themselves--accountable for the harm they cause.

pyramid-of-sexual-violence

Other Ways to Make Change

Hold Yourself Accountable

The reality is that anyone is capable of using sexually violent behaviours. This means that the responsibility is on each of us to challenge any feelings of entitlement we might feel towards people’s time, attention, or their body.We also need to commit to respecting the physical, emotional, and intimate boundaries of others--no matter what.

React with Gratitude Instead of Defensiveness

When someone presents us with a new way of thinking about things--or if they tell us that we caused them harm--practice reacting by thanking them for telling you, and then give what they said some thought. Although it’s easy to become defensive when we hear something that challenges our beliefs, accountability is actually a gift that helps us do better into the future.

Learn About Consent and Share that Learning with Others

Consent is voluntary, conscious, ongoing, and necessary for all sexual activity. Challenge yourself to learn more about consent. Practice this concept in all of your relationships and interactions--including non-sexual/romantic ones--and be an example for the people around you.

Challenge Victim Blaming

Instead of questioning choices made by someone who experienced sexual violence, think critically about the behaviours of the person who engaged in that behaviour in the first place. Understand that no one is ever responsible for something someone else chose to do to them.. Acknowledge the impact that victim-blaming has on our society, and think critically about how our society encourages this way of thinking.

Think Critically About Media

Assess the music, television, and movies you currently engage with and think critically about how they portray--or do not portray--sexual violence. Challenge yourself to seek out media that does not contribute to rape culture.

Adjust Your Language

Recognize that the words and phrases we use can be harmful and contribute to rape culture. Take stock of the words and phrases you use. If you use language that equates sexual violence with success or victory, challenge yourself to change that.

Support Survivors

Listen to and believe a survivor when they disclose to you. Many survivors are experiencing complex emotions around a traumatic event and they may not always express it the same way. 

Share Your Knowledge

If you feel comfortable and safe doing so, consider sharing what you’ve learned with others when you see or hear things that contribute to rape culture. By sharing our knowledge and challenging our own attitudes and behaviours, we can slowly begin to shift our culture.