WATCH: Chanel Contos shares her story on The Project
The former Kambala student turned activist inspired a national conversation about consent in Aussie schools in recent weeks, and has taken this year’s International Women’s Day theme, Choose To Challenge, to give an important message about rape culture.
“I’m calling on Australia to reflect on the small things we do, hear, and say in our day-to-day lives that contribute to rape culture,” she explained in a video message shared with Girlfriend.
“Some examples of this kind of behaviour include catcalling, inappropriately touching someone, objectifying women or shaming anyone for their sexuality or for coming forward as a victim of sexual assault. These things are often shrugged off but they are what maintain and perpetuate rape culture.”
“We all agree that rape is not okay but it’s the small actions and throw away phrases that we do allow, [and] which have led to the thousands of heartbreaking testimonies of sexual assault that so many have come forward with in recent weeks,” Contos explained.
WATCH: Chanel Contos's message for International Women's Day 2021
“Australia, as a society, we need to get to a point where it is more socially acceptable to call out behaviour that contributes to rape culture than it is to engage in it—we are so close to this point. Initially, it’ll take a few people to go against the current norm and call out these things until eventually we’ll reach a tipping point and establish a new norm.”
“The events of this year so far, including the thousands of testimonies of sexual assault across Australia have shown us that we still have significant work to do on the road to gender equality and dismantling rape culture, but the progress we’ve made speaks to the opportunity we have to make change.”
On the 22nd of February, Chanel Contos asked her Instagram followers in Sydney if they or anyone close to them experienced sexual assault from someone who went to an all-boys school. Within less than 24 hours, she was met with 300 responses and an unfortunate 70 percent of which said yes.
That harrowing stat inspired Contos to create a Google doc of anonymous testimonies where people could share their own experience with sexual assault—as of publishing, there’s over 17,000 individual testimonies. Then, she began a petition calling for members of parliament around the country to push for genuine sexual education around consent in schools—currently, it has nearly over 30,000 signatures.