A Guide to Social Response


What is Social Response?

Social response is how we, as SAPA Advocates, choose to respond to people who don’t share our goals for a survivor-friendly campus, or those who perpetrate rape culture. Rape culture is a broad topic, but can be simplified as aspects of culture–its music, jokes, advertisements, and ways of speech–that promote a violent attitude or violence, itself, towards women, women’s sexuality, and their bodies. Rape culture usually constitutes aspects of victim blaming, slut shaming, rape jokes, and the promotion of aggression as the ideal of masculinity. Rape culture is hard to define, hard to pinpoint, and even harder to eradicate, as it is all around us. It is often ingrained in one’s way of thinking from a young age and can be difficult to reverse. Members of SAPA have developed this concept of Social Response as a way to respond to instances of victim blaming and the degradation of women in a non-aggressive, educational, and compassionate manner. Our goal is to be advocates, to be educational, and to try to understand another’s perspective when it differs from our own so we can make our community better for all survivors.


Dos & Don’ts

Don’t feel compelled to put yourself in a situation that seems unsafe or uncomfortable.
Don’t react impulsively, even if what happened was extremely upsetting.
Don’t use potentially off-putting language or terms, such as feminism, sexism, misogyny, rape, rape culture, patriarchy, etc.        Words like these can shut many people down or immediately put them on the defensive.
Don’t accuse the person or apply negative labels to their actions.
Don’t attack the person or call their character into question.
Don’t yell at or harass the person or become overly emotional.
Don’t implicate the experiences of yourself or your loved ones in a conversation of this nature.
Don’t force the conversation or become frustrated if you’re not able to address every aspect of the problem.
Don’t get upset if they don’t quite get the picture or continues to be contrary, defensive, or belligerent.
Don’t let the response become an argument. The intent is not to “win” or prove the person wrong, but to work with them on opening their mind, shifting problematic frameworks, and encouraging productive thoughts on the topic.
Do look after yourself first.
Do consider all your options, including those that may not involve directly addressing the person.
Do assess your circumstances and proceed with the safest, most appropriate approach.
Do take as much time as you need to prepare a thoughtful response.
Do maintain a friendly, non-confrontational tone.
Do try to stay calm and collected.
Do allow the conversation to unfold as organically as possible.
Do use your skills as an advocate to subtly communicate the ways in which certain social norms condone violence and trivialize the experiences of survivors.
Do focus on your knowledge rather than on someone else’s negative behavior.
Do know you’ve done your best.



For the sake of your mental and emotional wellbeing, it’s important to…

Consider Options
The best course of action may not always be direct response. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to enlist help or simply not respond.

Remain Calm
All your emotions are valid and deserve to be acknowledged, but becoming angry or upset while responding can leave you drained and burnt out.

Protect Yourself
Your experiences are your own, and only you can decide when and how to discuss them. However, bringing up your experiences or those of loved ones in a conversation of this nature could be triggering and/or leave you in an emotionally vulnerable state. Keep in mind that this response is not happening in a safe space for survivors.

Let Go
Try not to become overly invested in the outcome of the situation. Know when to let go and remember that you’ve done your best.

Be sure to prioritize yourself, your health, and your safety when considering responding to a problematic situation.


Things We Like…

These are articles, blogposts, and videos that talk about or show examples of rape culture, how to subvert them, or how to talk about rape in a non-confrontational way.

Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape

Rape Culture 101 [TRIGGER WARNING]

“The Not Rape Epidemic” – Latoya Peterson [TRIGGER WARNING]

“Have You Heard The One About Rape? It’s Funny Now” – Tanya Gold

Sex+ with Laci Green

John Mulaney – Subway Chase

Tig Notaro – No Moleste

Dane Cook – Using The Word “Rape”