by Alice Wilder
In case you missed Zerlina’s Maxwell’s story amid the Stubenville media storm–here’s a quick summary: on Fox News, she dared to suggest that rape prevention should include educating boys and men.
Here’s a full quote of Maxwell’s point on Hannity: “I think that the entire conversation is wrong. I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear and how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape. In my case, don’t tell me if I’d only had a gun, I wouldn’t have been raped. Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.”
After her appearance, Maxwell was hit with racist and misogynistic attacks, and even threats of rape. Her experience has been widely covered in the media, as in the clip above from the Melissa Harris Perry Show.
I talked to her about what it’s like to be the center of a big news story, why educating boys is so important, and how everyday people can help end rape culture.
How are you doing? There’s been a lot of press about your appearance on Hannity and the vitriol that followed, it must be a little overwhelming.
I’m doing okay. I have a solid support system in place and so I was in a good place emotionally to handle all of the harassment. I think going through a sexual assault and the trauma associated with that made me a stronger person. I definitely cried and I definitely was upset by all of the threats and hateful comments, but I know my message is important and I wanted to get it out there no matter what.
What was your initial reaction to the conviction?
My initial reaction was relief. Steubenville is one of the 3% of rape cases that ends in a conviction. The survivor in the case got justice in a court of law and that is empowering and may encourage other women and girls to come forward to tell their own stories and report assaults. On the other hand, the media’s coverage of the conviction has been horrible and so much concern is expressed for the rapists, and not enough for the young girl. That must change.
Why is the #EducateCoaches action important to you?
It’s important because coaches and teachers serve as surrogate parents to many young athletes. Their influence is important and many young people look to coaches as role models. It is therefore essential that these coaches be educated about sexual assault so we don’t end up with a situation like Steubenville, where the coach was complicit in the crime in many ways.
How do you think everyday people who don’t know much about rape culture can take action to prevent attacks like the one in Stubenville?
I think the key is that we have to stop blaming the victim. That for me is number one. As a culture, we must believe women and girls who are brave enough to come forward and we must have empathy for them and support them. Victim blaming re-victimizes young women and girls who already feel so much guilt and shame and we have the power to change that so they aren’t recovering from this trauma alone.
We also must educate people about consent, preferably enthusiastic consent to quote Jaclyn Friedman, and also we must teach everyone about bystander intervention. Many crimes could be prevented if good people felt an obligation to step in and help our fellow human beings.
One more question: now that we have a guilty verdict what do you see as the next steps?
The next steps are to educate, educate, educate. The 5 ways I suggested in my EBONY.com piece are just the beginning. We are all a part of rape culture and we must all work together to dismantle it.