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At Vidcon 2015, we sat down with Bree Essrig, Hannah Witton, Steve Zaragoza to talk about whether people who experience sexual violence "ask for it".

CALL TO ACTION: Why do people say a victim was asking for it? Share with us using #EngageUplift!

Engage by Uplift tackles the difficult issues surrounding sexual abuse that the YouTube and online communities face. We're starting real talk for real change.

Each week, our host Kat Lazo discusses abuse and how it manifests in virtual spaces. Watch and collaborate with us through weekly calls to action, and join in with some of your favorite YouTubers as they consider the issues in round table discussions.

Bree Essrig:
Hannah Witton:
Steve Zaragoza:

Hosted by Kat Lazo:

Directed by Kelly Kend:

Real talk for Real Change. #EngageUplift
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KAT LAZO: Hey, I'm Kat Lazo, also known as TheeKatsMeoww, and welcome to another episode of Engage by Uplift.

Thank you so much for coming. We have Bree Essrig, we have Hannah Witton, and Steve Zaragoza.


KAT: So let's just dive in. Today we'll be tackling this notion of "asking for it." Why do you think it's so easy for society to jump to the notion that he or she was asking for it?

STEVE: Well, I -- right off the bat I feel like it's because it's very easy for people to just kind of assume because someone looks a certain way or because they're dressing a certain way that they were "asking for it."

HANNAH WITTON: I think people find it easier to do that rather than think about the motivations behind why someone would be sexually violent.

BREE ESSRIG: Entitlement, I think, is a big factor, where it's like: "he or she dresses a certain way, therefore I am entitled to gawk, I am entitled to decide what they -- how they act, how they should be acting, how they should be feeling.

STEVE: Also, I feel like there's so many movies and TV shows, where it's okay to gawk at someone dressed a certain way, or it's okay to yell at that person, or catcall. It's almost used as like a joke, or like a funny moment in a movie. And so it makes people watch that and go, "oh man, that was so funny! It must be okay to do that in real life." When in reality, it's not in any way.

HANNAH: But I also thinks it's kind of about how we've studied sexuality over the last hundred or so years, like, since people have actually been looking into it. And what people used to think was that men have these natural and biological sexual urges that need to be fulfilled. And so it's not their fault.

BREE: I was definitely raised that way. I was raised to say, "cover everything or you're going to get unwanted attention."

HANNAH: We kind of live in this, like, victim blame culture, where it's like: rape whistles, pepper sprays. There was this thing about nail varnish, you put it in your drink and you can tell if it's been roofied. There's, like, bottle stoppers that you can put on top of your drink so that no one can pour something into it.

STEVE: This is like the James Bond of cup situations. but then, what happens if, you know, something happens to you, and they're like, "oh well did you wear your nail varnish? Did you do this? Why didn't you have your special nail varnish on?"

BREE:They can go through the entire list of things you could have done, but the truth is --

HANNAH: -- It's got nothing to do with that.

BREE: Nothing to do with it, because a lot of these violent acts happen with people you know.

KAT: How do we fight against this narrative? How do we fight against this victim blaming?

STEVE: I think, I don't know, I think a lot of it comes from the "hive mind" of the internet, where one person is very vocal about what to do, and everybody else will be like, "Yeah, we should blame the victim. Yeah!" And then think of it as this kind of, like, chain reaction sort of situation. So I feel like if there were more people who were outspoken about the opposite, then maybe that would help.

HANNAH: I think that, um, obviously I really believe that education is a hundred percent what is needed. When you say, "we should be teaching kids sex ed," people freak out. They're like, "Think of the children!" But actually, what you want to be teaching them from a young age is about relationships, about respect, about consent even if it's just like a hug between seven year olds. I think, if you have that basis of that mutual respect, and always being like, "hey, are you okay with this?" whether or not it's a sexual situation, that's just a really good habit to have. And it's not just about not doing those things yourself, like not catcalling, not harassing people, but it's when you see it. Like if you see your friend doing it, you're like, "hey, what was that about?" "That was weird!" And then -- because usually what happens, especially if it's a group of guys, they do it and they're looking for affirmation. And they're doing it to almost show off. And so if at least one person in that group goes, "hey, that wasn't cool, why did you do that?" "Oh. Okay, I didn't get that validation that I needed from that situation."

STEVE: I feel like there's an aspect too of adolescence that's kind of confusing and a grey area as well, because at least for -- I mean I'm sure it's the same for girls, but for guys when they're going through puberty, and there's that whole, there's the hormone thing happening. It's almost like, like you were talking about, there's that kind of weird, animalistic, "Oh, I see skin. And skin means potential nudity, and potential nudity means sex." "And I like that, and I want to pursue that."

HANNAH: It's really strange how that whole idea is so focused on boys, and it's like, well girls have that too. And apparently, we concentrate real good in school.

STEVE: I know. I guess it's like, it must just be like the -- because even in the animal kingdom, there's this whole kind of like male dominance. And I feel like, if you apply that, sort of, to humans as well, because we really are just animals, when we kind of boil down to it. There's this undeniable, subconscious -- like you were talking about -- that want of something. But I feel like if you catch that -- as a teacher, as a parent -- and you deal with those urges and those hormonal thoughts with kind of a place of: "you're gonna feel attracted to people, you're going to..."

HANNAH: And that's a hundred percent fine, but I think what a lot of kids in school need to be taught is, "Oh, I can't concentrate because this girl has her tits out." It's just like, she's not there for you to look at!

BREE: 'Cause let's be real! I mean when I was in school, I was a very -- I felt things sexually at a very young age. So, if a guy -- if I looked at a collarbone, sometimes I'd get turned on! So I don't think it really matters how much skin is showing; it's how you deal with that feeling.

KAT: Yeah, because as you were saying, okay, we're animals, but I think we're more evolved than that, because we all have self-will. So it's about practicing that self-will. Thank you so much for coming, this has been an awesome conversation. Thank you so much for watching! Don't forget to answer our call to action using the hashtag #EngageUplift on social media, or in the comments down below. And while you're at it, why not subscribe? Thanks again. I'm Kat Lazo of TheeKatsMeoww. Til next time.