Rape Culture Is a Thing

Today I ran across a fabulous post about what rape culture looks like by Melissa McEwan at her blog Shakesville.  As she explains, “Rape culture involves the objectification of women, which is part of a dehumanizing process that renders consent irrelevant.”  Or another way that rape culture is commonly articulated is that our society tends to find violence sexy, and to accept that sex is often violent.  This attitude results in lots of women and men, children and adults, being raped.

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Some Great Guided Visualizations

Sometimes dwelling on big problems like sexual violence can get a person down.  So, this week I’d like to point out a resource that I find helpful when I need some rejuvenating and resourcing.  I initially found the guided visualizations provided by Belleruth Neparstek and others at Healing Journeys, Inc. years ago when I was facing a scary medical procedure.  Her soothing voice and gentle guidance helped me to feel supported in my journey, and confident in the outcome.  I am convinced that they significantly reduced my stress going into the procedure, and improved the speed of my recovery.

I was reminded of Belleruth’s work recently by a consultation group in which I participate.  The discussion there inspired me to revisit the Healing Journeys web site, where I found several gems that I now own, or have placed high on my wish list.  My favorite discovery is that Belleruth, a psychotherapist herself, has produced guided visualizations specifically for those suffering from post traumatic stress.  On the site, Belleruth claims that her “Healing Trauma” guided imagery is the best work she’s done, which I expect means that it is very fine work indeed.  

Belleruth recommends that most people start with guided imagery designed for general stress relief, sleep enhancement, and grief, which sounds like good advice to me.  I find it to be critical to develop good resources for tolerating and containing difficult material before starting to work directly with any trauma.  Fortunately, Healing Journeys provides several guided meditations to help with that.  I am most interested in those by Belleruth herself, and so I have added her “Relieve Stress”, “Healthful Sleep”, and “Ease Grief” MP3s to my wish list as well. 

I have no relationship at all to Belleruth Neparstek or Healing Journeys.  I have simply found guided imagery to be very helpful both personally and professionally.  And I have found Belleruth’s work to be of the highest quality.

What resources do you find useful for taking care of yourself, and building resources for facing life’s more difficult realities?


Peg Shippert is a psychotherapist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado.  She has a deep passion for working with survivors of sexual violence and other traumas. 

What I Love About Slut Walks

See the first post in this series about the Slut Walk phenomenon

First of all, I think calling these protests Slut Walks was brilliant and natural, and is largely responsible for the massive amount of attention that the events have generated in the media.  Most of which has been good for the cause of eliminating sexual violence.  After all, the police officer that started this whole thing used the term slut in his statement. 

I also admire the chutzpah of the Slut Walk contingent which wishes to transform the word slut into something more positive for women.  Women who embrace their sexuality are so often denigrated as sluts, and that demeans all women.  I could talk about that for hours, but I’ll refrain in this instance.  I’ll only say here that I appreciate the empowerment that can be found in the process of claiming a word that others use to humiliate you.

I also love that the Slut Walk movement is pointing out what is wrong with the message that it is up to women to avoid being sexually assaulted.  This line of reasoning tends to go along with analogies like burglary.  For example, if I want to avoid being burgled, I put my valuables in a secure place, out of view, and I make sure my windows and doors are locked. 

I figure if you’re reading here, you probably get why this analogy doesn’t work.  But just in case, I’ll spell it out:  The problem with this analogy is that it is so far from exact.  For example, say that your home was broken into and your valuables stolen.  How likely is it, do you think, that the police will question you about why you didn’t have a security system installed?  If the burglar is caught and put on trial, do you think it will be part of his defense that you didn’t have deadbolt locks?  And that you had that flat screen TV system in full view of your living room window?  Which he says was not locked.  Can you prove that it was?  No?  Clearly you were giving signals that you expected it to be stolen.  You didn’t tell the burglar not to steal it.  It must have been consensual.  You can see how the analogy breaks down with just a little prodding.

And – maybe this is even more important – we all acknowledge that people with security systems and good locks have their homes broken into, too.  Moreover, we generally agree that often people have good reasons (cost, convenience, assuming they were relatively safe) for not implementing more security measures.  Do we say they these people had it coming to them?  How *do* we feel about these people.  Is our analogy holding up well in these areas?

Thank you, Slut Walks, for highlighting how convoluted our thinking is around women, sex, and violence. Anyone who can grab our attention long enough to make these points is walking in the right direction, in my opinion.

Stay tuned for a future post about what I don’t like so much about the Slut Walk phenomenon.  What is your take on Slut Walks?


Peg Shippert is a psychotherapist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado.  She has a deep passion for working with survivors of sexual violence and other traumas. 

Are We (Slut) Walking in the Right Direction?

I’ve been writing about sexual consent a lot recently, and it has landed me square in the territory of a recent phenomenon known as Slut Walks.  If you haven’t heard of the Slut Walk phenomenon, it was started in mid 2011, when over 3000 men and women marched in the streets of Toronto, protesting a statement by Toronto Police Officer Michael Sanguinetti that, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

The Toronto SlutWalk was quickly followed by similar events in cities throughout the world.  Many of the signs shown at Slut Walk marches capture important concepts that seem to have eluded many people.  For example:

Enjoying sex does not invite violence.

The problem:  Society teaches “don’t get raped” rather than “don’t rape”

There is no woman you are allowed to rape.  Not even sluts.

Sex should be fun for everyone.

Despite the popularity of Slut Walks, they have also generated much controversy.  There seem to be two main objections to Slut Walks:

1.  Many Slut Walk participants state that one of their goals is to “reclaiming the word slut.”  The essential argument of those who oppose the Slut Walk movement on these grounds is that it confuses promiscuity with equality, and reinforces the concept of women as sex objects.  Moreover, those who are not comfortable embracing the term “slut” end up unnecessarily alienated from a movement that they might otherwise support.

2.  The idea of managing one’s risk of being sexually assaulted is seen as valid by many.  Just as it is valid to manage one’s risk of being burgled by making sure one’s doors and windows are closed and locked, and valuables stored in a secure place. 

I have so many thoughts about Slut Walks, that I’ve decided to write two more posts about it.  Watch here for my next post, “What I love about Slut Walks”, followed shortly by another post, “What I hate about Slut Walks.”

I can hardly wait to hear what you love and hate about Slut Walks!


Peg Shippert is a psychotherapist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado.  She has a deep passion for working with survivors of sexual violence and other traumas.