Link: Sexual Violence in Vanuatu
I remember the night before I left for staging (over a year ago now), when my older brother sat slumped in a chair in my parents' dining room, sleepily watching me sort through my luggage as the clock neared midnight. We already talked about how weird it would be, being this far away from one another for such a long time. "I just don't want you to get hurt," he told me. "I'm not worried about you, but I'm worried about others who may take advantage of you."
He wasn't the only one who was worried. Some family and friends expressed concern in my solo venture to Vanuatu when I departed the US last year. While I was used to traveling alone for years now, in some weird and isolated places (like empty train cars in Moldova, run-down sanitariums in Tajikistan, and yurts in the frosty Mongolian countryside), the people closest to me were still worried about me. This was a faraway place that they knew very little about.
PC understands the concerns and the possible challenges, and provides us lots of training to help mitigate risk when it comes to any kind of crime or safety concern, and so far, I have had no issue. However, I still wanted to share this article I recently read, written by the creators of a great local Vanuatu feminist website called "Sista," which addresses the issue of sexual assault. I've translated it below.
Sexual violence is an issue which many people find is difficult to discuss. It's important to talk about sexual violence with your family and friends since it's a major issue in Vanuatu. 60% of inmates are in prison for committing sexual violence. It isn't only a women's issue -- it's important that everyone takes responsibility to face this problem.
If you don't discuss sexual violence, there will be prevalent "myths." A "myth" is a "widely held but false belief or idea." When a man rapes a woman, there are some who will judge the woman and blame her. They will say such things as, "What was she wearing?" "Was she drunk?" "Was she walking around at night?" Instead of asking the victim what she was doing/wearing/saying, we should turn to the offender to ask our questions. Often the police, media and society will tell women how to prevent sexual violence instead of asking offenders to take responsibility for their actions.
There is no reason or excuse for sexual violence. If a girl is drunk or wears sexy clothes, a man does not have any right to assault her. He must ask consent before any sexual activity.
It's a myth to think that it's the victim's responsibility to change their ways to prevent sexual violence. Even if a girl doesn't drink alcohol, doesn't wear shorts, and doesn't walk around late at night, she still faces the risk of being sexually assaulted in her own home. In Vanuatu, 61% of victims live with their offenders or are related to them.
It's time for us to turn the tables on the boys and men to stop sexual violence. It's not just the responsibility of the girls and the women. #YumiStanap #TogetherWeStand