It Happens Everywhere is our weekly newsletter where we take a look at what is happening in the world and try to start a conversation, a conversation that will make people think, and hopefully stand up against sexual violence.

It Happens Here, It Happens Everywhere.

CN: sexual violence, rape, murder, enslavement, victim-blaming

Guatemala trial sentences

On Saturday two ex-military officers have been found guilty and sentenced to 360 years in jail for the murder, rape and sexual enslavement of indigenous women between 1982 and 1988. They were both found guilty of holding 15 women in sexual and domestic slavery, as well as individual crimes. The UN has said that rape was used as a weapon of war by the Guatemalan military at the time, yet this was the first successful prosecution for sexual violence committed as part of Guatemala’s military conflict in the 1980s. During the trial, the survivors wore traditional Mayan indigenous dress with their heads and faces covered- and other women in the room did the same thing in solidarity.

Many of those present clapped and expressed joy at the sentence- Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Peace Prize winner, said “This is historic, it is a great step for women and above all for the victims.”

Lady GaGa’s Oscar’s performance

At the Oscar’s on Sunday evening, Lady Gaga gave an amazing and heart-wrenching performance of her song, Till It Happens to You. It was written for The Hunting Ground, a documentary about sexual violence in US college campuses, which we held a screening for last week.

She was introduced by Joe Biden, who gave a short speech about the problem. Its fantastic news that this conversation was had by such an influential musician and a prominent political figure at one of the world’s most publicised events. The impact this will have is immeasurable.

After the performance she was joined on stage by dozens of survivors.

Project Consent’s new video campaign

This week Project Consent released a series of videos which perfectly demonstrate how simple the concept of consent is. The videos use talking cartoon vaginas, penises, bums, breasts and hands, and show one attempting to initiate contact, the other not giving consent, and the initiator quite rightly backing off. The takeaway message is that, if it’s not a yes, it’s a no.

Campaigns and messages such as this are vital to combat rape culture. Unfortunately, the idea that consent is complicated, or can be a grey area, is incredibly pervasive in our society. Messages such as “they’re probably playing hard to get,” or “they just need convincing” are far too common. The idea that unless you say no, it isn’t rape. The idea that a person’s sexual history is relevant when it comes to consent. This kind of discourse excuses rapists and causes survivor’s to doubt the nature of their experience. This is why these videos are so important.

Rhiannon Thompson, Publicity Team


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