BE A BETTER HUMAN
The campaign is called Be a Better Human, because we don’t just want it to be about what we shouldn’t do; we want it to be about self-improvement for everyone. And when we say ‘everyone’, we really do mean everyone. We’re encouraging everyone who is part of our campus community to take a moment and consider how we can ‘better’ our behaviour.
LET’S TALK ABOUT CONSENT!
Consent is about saying “yes” and about respecting and accepting a person’s right to say “no”. Consent is required at any stage of being intimate with someone – asking for a dance,a date, to make out – and at any point in a relationship, whether you’ve just met or you’ve been going steady since the dawn of time. But let’s talk about consent and sex! You may think you know it well, but read on ahead and reaffirm that you’re on the right track. It is important to be able to communicate what we want, when we want it, and how we want it, with whomever we’re wanting it with. Don’t pressure anyone into having sex and don’t do anything that makes the other person feel uncomfortable. Sex should be about mutual pleasure so communication is key. Check in with the person you’re having sex with and make sure they are enjoying themselves and want to continue. Equally, if someone is pressuring you or making you feel uncomfortable, it’s your right to say “no”. Consent is something you give, so it’s also something you can take back.
MYTHS AND RAPE CULTURE
Phrases like “she asked for it” or “boys will be boys” are examples of rape culture; so too are attitudes based on gender stereotypes – that being a ‘man’ means you should be dominant and aggressive; that being a ‘woman’ means you need to be submissive and sexually passive; that men ought to score and women ought to be nice and not act so cold. Accepting rape myths only helps to create environments in which many individuals – women, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community – are disempowered. The legacy of rape culture and victim blaming affects everyone, but let’s focus on women as an example. Although most males are decent humans and thankfully many females are never the victims of rape, the existence of sexual assault and rape in our community means women do change their behaviour, whether it’s learnt (“don’t go out wearing that”) or out of fear (“I should get home before it’s too dark”). 50% of Australian women for example, don’t feel comfortable walking a short distance home after a night out for fear of being harassed or assaulted, whereas a guy more than likely would (79.2%). Being on the receiving end of ‘locker room talk’, upskirting, catcalls, stalking, all the way to coercion, harassment and sexual violence can happen to students. So who are we kidding? Let’s all try to be better and speak up instead of staying silent. Let’s put a stop to the behaviour that normalises rape culture.
“Rape culture is tasking victims with the burden of rape prevention. Rape culture is encouraging women to learn self-defence as though that is the only solution required to prevent rape. Rape culture is warning women to “learn common sense” or “be more responsible” or “avoid these places” or “don’t dress this way”; failing to caution men to not rape.”
Melissa McEwan, Rape Culture 101
HOW TO BE AN ACTIVE BYSTANDER
An active bystander is someone who, when noticing a situation that concerns them, does something about it – they are everyday superheroes. Maybe you’re looking out for your friends; maybe you’re calling them out when they are making an offensive comment towards another person. Each situation is different, but there are some basic things you can do in any scenario:
- Notice the event: We’ve mentioned a few scenarios throughout this booklet – a friend showing you a nude that was sent to them privately, hearing someone making a homophobic, sexist or racist remark towards another person or group, or noticing a peer incessantly pursuing someone who is not interested – these are all situations where you might intervene.
- Identify if it’s a problem: Interpreting an event as a problem requires judgement on your part, but as a guide, question whether the situation at hand makes you feel uncomfortable. Would you behave the same way? Would this kind of behaviour be okay if it were occurring to a friend or family member? If you are unsure about positively answering these questions, or the answer makes you feel uncomfortable, chances are a positive intervention is called for.
- Take responsibility: This is perhaps the hardest step; deciding to step up. In difficult situations we often assume that someone else will do something – surely the woman at the club has friends who will come to her aid – but if we all assume someone else will step in,nothing will happen.
- Make a plan: There are a number of different ways to intervene and take responsibility – either directly or indirectly – just remember to be respectful and mindful of your own safety and theirs in whatever approach you take, whether you decide to act in the moment or check-in with the person later to see how they feel.
- Act: Choosing to not participate in a negative conversation or calling-out bad behaviour; derailing an incident from occurring by distracting the would-be perpetrator (i.e. ask for the time, directions, what drink they’re having); offering assistance to the victim by listening or helping them to report the incident – these are just some of the ways you can intervene and be an active bystander.
So what can we do to move forward as individuals and as a campus community? What’s the takeaway? It’s about creating a culture that prevents it from happening in the first place. Practice being critical of the pervasive ways society reinforces sexist attitudes and stereotypes that normalise sexually abusive behaviour AND be proactive in taking a stand. How can you help women on campus to feel safe, to feel empowered? How can you actively encourage men on campus to express their emotions in healthy ways? How can you be an ally of the campaign and an advocate for the change we want to see? At the very heart of the ‘Be A Better Human’ campaign are three simple words – consent, respect and empathy – and this is where we encourage you to start.
- Talk about and engage in ideas surrounding affirmative consent – that it’s voluntary, enthusiastic and continuous.
- Respect each other – women, men and gender diverse people – their rights, their identity and autonomy.
- Show empathy for your fellow student and their lived experience and be an active bystander to ensure that they are okay.
Use the questions dotted throughout the booklet as conversation prompts with your friends and classmates. If your thoughts and actions come from a good place, and the person next to you does the same, then person by person, group by group, we can make our community better for everyone.
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RMIT SECURITY LOCATIONS
- City Campus: Building 5, Level 1 (Enter via Chemistry Lane)
- Brunswick Campus: Building 515, Level 1, Room 325
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