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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Respect’s Role in Sex

Rebecca Butler, Equal Connections Founder and Violence Prevention Consultant links arms with Women?s Center coordinator Ginn Norris and
Rebecca Butler
Rebecca Butler, Equal Connections Founder and Violence Prevention Consultant links arms with Women?s Center coordinator Ginn Norris and

On October 28, 2002 the Women’s Center sponsored a presentation by Rebecca Butler called “Respect.” Ms. Butler, a graduate of Wellesley College, is the founder of Equal Connections, a consulting firm which primarily visits high schools and colleges making presentations on the prevention of sexual assault and violence within relationships. As a survivor of rape herself, Rebecca Butler also offers confidential informal counseling and support to other rape survivors via her website [email protected].

Both male and female students and faculty attended the presentation, which was two and a half hours long. The male attendance was particularly important, because the presentation not only focused on what women can do to prevent violence against themselves, but what men can do to ” be part of the solution.” According to Butler, men being part of the solution means understanding that ” no always means no.” While this may seem like common sense, one participant in the audience asked if that meant that even if a woman were already nude and engaging in some form of sexual activity she still had the right to refuse sexual intercourse. Butler’s answer was a resounding yes. This question was also significant because 85% of all rapes are committed by an acquaintance. Butler pointed out that what this statistic means is that it is important for both men and women in any form of sexual relationship to recognize their responsibilities in both setting and respecting boundaries.

And while Butler did not often focus on laws concerning rape, she did point out that no one can give legal consent while intoxicated in any state. This information was given in order to emphasize the risk involved in sleeping with someone while intoxicated, because as Butler stated, “Many men are as frightened of being accused of rape as women are of having a rape committed against them.”

However, what made Rebecca Butler’s presentation unique was that it did not focus only on how to prevent rape and sexual assault, but how to promote healthy relationships, relationships in which sex does not necessarily need to be a factor. In fact, one point that Butler focused on was to “be open to being intimate without intercourse.” Butler suggested achieving this through using open communication and using intimacy as a way to connect and make your partner feel safe. According to Butler, this is an important aspect of any healthy relationship. Other characteristics attributed to healthy relationships were trust and security. Butler said that to gage trust, security, and communication within a relationship, one needs to know they feel safe and secure and see that their partner not only says, but shows, that they hold the other’s best interest in mind.

On the opposite end of the relationship spectrum are unhealthy relationships. Butler pointed out that unhealthy relationships are not only within the stereotypical bounds of one partner being physically abusive toward the other. Abuse within a relationship also includes one partner exerting monetary or any other form of control over the other, as well as verbal or emotional abuse. Butler suggested that if involved in a relationship that is unhealthy, the first step is to attempt to communicate with your partner and tell them what they are doing and how it makes you feel. And, of course, if this avenue is unsuccessful, it is probably best to end this relationship. However, Butler did not imply that this is ever an easy process. In fact, she provided among the many handouts at her presentation, one including phone numbers of area hotlines and shelters for those attempting to end unhealthy relationships. One such number was UMass Boston’s own counselor, Deb Cohen, who can be reached at (617) 785-5690.

Rebecca Butler’s presentation, “Respect”, was not merely about preventing rape and sexual assault, but living a happier emotional existence. In fact, the suggestions she gave for promoting healthy relationships are useful for all relationships, not only romantic ones. And while some aspects of her presentation may have seemed to be common sense to some members of the audience, common sense is often only attainable after people like Rebecca Butler attempt to make information common knowledge.