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‘Survivor. Speaker. Storyteller’
Brittany Piper shares her perspective on rape culture as a survivor
“We’re living in a society where essentially rape is okay.”
Brittany Piper survived rape when she was only 20 years old. Her talk at Quinnipiac on Wednesday, April 12 was centered around rape culture, consent and supporting survivors.
Piper was driving one day on the northwest side of Indianapolis in 2009 when she hit a pothole and was forced to stop at a gas station. A man offered to help Piper change her tire, and she gave him a ride home to thank him for being a good samaritan.
According to a story written by WTHR-TV Channel 13 Indianapolis’ own Sara Galer in April 2009, the man asked Piper to drive west, eventually leading her down an alley. He had her alone and vulnerable.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Paul Thompson told WTHR that when Piper refused to stop the car, the man hit her at least twice in the face. He then got out of the car and approached the driver side, and raped Piper.
According to WTHR, the man let Piper go after threatening to kill her. He did however, leave behind his fingerprints on the car.
Now, after eight years of healing, Piper is using her story to educate, inspire and inform. She travels the globe as a keynote speaker, teaching people about rape culture and sexual violence through a partnership with CAMPUSPEAK.
She explained how there are two parts to the term “rape culture.”
Rape is sexual acts performed without consent, without permission.
“Now rape is kind of a defined thing; it’s kind of this factual thing,” Piper said. Culture is the one thing that we can change. Culture is the one thing that we have control over.”
Piper believes that culture is learned through narratives and storytelling. She said stories teach us lessons, shape our views and, most importantly, compel us to act.
“I have found that stories are taught to you heart, they have feelings connected to them,” Piper said. “Where as fact, logic, statistics… that’s all just kind of planted in your brain, and I don’t think that it sticks as long.”
She shared examples of television shows, movies, video games, music and advertisements that perpetuate rape and comprise rape culture. She also talked about hypermasculinity developing at an early age, when boys are taught when they are young that they are above girls.
Lack of sex education and exposure to pornography also contribute to the perpetuation of rape, according to Piper.
She also emphasized tips on giving consent. Number one: consent is voluntary and mutual, both parties have to agree and it can be withdrawn at anytime. Number two: past consent does not mean current or future consent. Number three: there is no consent when there is force, intimidation or coercion. Number four: one can not always consent if under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Number five: if someone does not or cannot consent to sex, it is rape.
After telling her story, Piper told the audience that we need to move from a place of sympathy when it comes to dealing with survivors to a place of empathy.
“When we feel sympathetic to people, we’re not really helping them move past it,” Piper said. “When we’re empathetic, that’s when we take on the mission of helping them move to the next phase of healing, of moving on. We need to normalize empathy.”
As a part of sexual assault awareness month, Olivia Bartolomei, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority undergraduate intern, wanted to incorporate this speech into the Greek Leadership Series on campus.
“I think every organization on this campus has a duty to really expose the Quinnipiac community as much as possible to what sexual assault month means,” Bartolomei said. “I thought she was the perfect thing to bring to our campus.”
Junior nursing major Meg Keaveney found a connection between a class she took and Piper’s presentation.
“I actually took a course called Anthropology of Gender Bias and it’s taught by a professor who also specializes in women’s violence,” Keaveney said. “It talked a lot about how this culture here, especially Quinnipiac in comparison to other universities, how it’s becoming an epidemic globally so it’s interesting to see her perspective on it and different topics too.”
Piper closed her presentation talking about the “It’s On Us” campaign, encouraging students to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given, step in when someone talks about intoxicating, isolating or targeting someone and create an environment where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.