The Frisky: What are your thoughts about what was recently said about the non-existence of ‘rape culture’? Specifically it was said that sexual assaults are “not caused by cultural factors, but by the conscious decisions of a very small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime.” Obviously, so many feminists and anti-violence activists thought that was preposterous.

Laurie Halse Anderson: This was the president of RAINN, Scott Berkowitz, who made that statement. I believe it was in a letter that was part of a policy suggestion to a White House commission. I spoke to Scott about it this morning, as a matter of fact, because I think he’s wrong. I told him it’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not that we either go after rapists or go after rape culture. I think the reason we have so many people sexually assaulting people is because they know they can get away with it or they feel they can get away with it, and that’s part of rape culture.I think the thing to say is that RAINN and I are in ongoing discussions about this, I’m hoping that this is a really teachable moment and we can use it to start educating about some new things.


If you’re a woman in America, you’re afraid often when you go in public places. I’ve never met a woman who hasn’t at some point in her life been groped, had a stranger come and touch her body. I think one of the biggest issues that we’re dealing with as a country is [educating people that] rape is a crime. To peel the word “sexual” off “assault,” it’s an assault. And obviously, everybody in America has sympathy for people who are victims of assault. You get mugged, somebody burglarizes your house and you get beat up in the process, you would only have an outpouring of sympathy and empathy. And yet, because we’re so freaked out about sex in American culture, when it’s a sexual assault, people don’t know how to respond and bad guys have taken advantage of our inability to speak openly and honestly about human sexuality.


I’m very heartened by discussions of rape culture.If we’re all having this giant national conversation, I would love to see people start discussing concrete, constructive ways that they can change rape culture. I think when you’re discussing it, it’s really important to acknowledge that a lot of men are allies. A lot of guys —especially guys that I’ve met under the age of 40 — a lot of them were raised by single moms or they just grew up in a world where there’s a lot more emotional equality between men and women, and so they’re just as outraged as most women are by rape culture and the horrifying things that bad guys do. So, you want to be careful not to demonize all men or all one kind of person, but … the whole point of my book is about speaking up.


You can’t make things better unless you speak up about them, so to summarize, I have a strong difference of opinion with the president of RAINN about this but I still completely support their mission. They do the important work, the life-saving work of helping victims speak up and become survivors better than any organization in the U.S., so we’ll keep working on it.