On Being In Your Body: Amber Amour
Amber Amour is a renowned artist and humanitarian who is revolutionizing the world with the global movement Creating Consent Culture. In 2011, Amber graduated Suma Cum Laude from the University of Paris La Sorbonne where she obtained a degree in French as a Second Language. Later that year, Amber relocated to New York City where she began her career in social justice with Marriage Equality USA and the Human Rights Campaign. For two years she worked as the boots-on-the-ground to successfully legalize same-sex marriage in Delaware, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. In 2014, Amber was sexually assaulted and the NYPD responded poorly, one officer even saying, "Are you sure he meant 'no'? Maybe he thought you meant 'yes'." In response, Amber founded #StopRapeEducate, focusing her efforts on educating the public about sexual violence through chalk art. Six months later, Amber took her feminist chalk art messages from Washington Square park all the way to London, Spain, and England for the first annual #StopRapeEducate World Tour. Two days before Amber was supposed to leave South Africa for Australia, she was raped by a South African man. In an act of bravery, minutes after the incident, Amber documented the assault and posted the details along with a teary-eyed selfie on Instagram.
One month later, Amber was contacted by Marie Claire and her interview with them went viral. Amber was bullied, harassed, threatened, blamed, and shamed by millions of people around the world, after experiencing the most violent attack of her life. Refusing to cave to the patriarchy in any type of way, Amber continued her career as an activist and it was after this catalytic moment that she shifted her focus to the one and only solution to ending sexual assault once and for all: consent culture! Creating Consent Culture was born in January 2016 and is aimed at normalizing consent, communication, and supporting survivors while teaching safe boundaries, respect, and holistic healing for survivors of sexual trauma. Today, CCC has support of millions worldwide!
What No One Told Me About Sexual Assault:
Being a survivor of multiple sexual assaults has given me a deep-rooted desire to explore and understand this issue more. Sexual assault is rarely what Hollywood depicts: a masked man jumping out of the bushes and violently attacking a female night runner. None of my assaults happened in public—all of them happened indoors. None of my assaults were perpetrated by a stranger—each by someone I knew and trusted. None of my assaults were violent, yet, I knew my life was in danger. It took me years to realize that I had been assaulted. It took me even longer to realize the difference between sexual assault and rape. In order to fully understand, I had to actively unlearn rape culture and replace it with ideologies that support consent culture.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
Apprehensive consent is sexual assault. Convincing someone to have sex with you is rape. Imagine this: a man goes into a bank, holds up a gun, and asks the bank teller to give him all the money. The terrified teller unlocks the safe and gives the money to the robber, who quickly escapes. When police arrive, they do not arrest the bank teller as an accomplice to armed robbery, instead, they console her and offer support for the traumatic event that took place. Now, apply this to sexual assault. If someone pressures, coerces, or threatens you to have sex, even if you say “yes,” it is no longer sex, it is rape. You were not a willing participant and therefore should not be blamed.
Enthusiastic consent is an enthusiastic, sober, ongoing “yes.” If the person is intoxicated, unconscious, unable to consent, uneasy, hesitant, or unwilling, it is rape. If you were already getting physical but the person changes their mind, stop. “Maybe” does not mean yes. “Later” does not mean yes. “I don’t want to” does not mean yes. Never assume that someone wants to engage in sexual activity. It’s important to respect boundaries & communicate clearly what we think, want, & feel.
Rape is never the survivors fault. For years I blamed myself for the sexual abuse I experienced when I was 12 and for each rape thereafter. Society tells women and girls that they put themselves in situations that invite sexual assault: drinking, clothing, promiscuity, etc. Consent culture teaches that it is never the survivor’s fault because by definition, rape cannot be “asked for.” Don’t let rape culture trick you into believing blatant lies. Only rapists are to blame for rape. End of story.
Speaking up isn’t as scary as it seems. I had been raped at least five times before saying anything to the police. I kept silent about my initial assaults because I feared that I would get in trouble or worse, be blamed. In the years that passed I became very involved with women’s rights and the fight to stop rape. I never expected that I would be raped again but when I did, I was confronted with the inner struggle of wanting to speak up but being too afraid to do so. Eventually, my boyfriend convinced me to go to the police reminding me, “This is everything you stand for.” Although the cops could have handled my situation differently, and although my rapist never even went to jail, I’m still proud of myself for standing up.
Surviving makes you stronger. Being a survivor of sexual assault has made me stronger mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, but I didn’t always feel this way. After my assaults, I felt as if I was being crushed by the weight of the earth. I suffered from anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addiction for over a decade. Four years ago when I woke from my last suicide attempt, I decided to never feel that way again. I made a conscious decision to take healing into my own hands. I immediately began my journey of recovery with yoga and meditation. In the years that followed I explored: metaphysics, psychology, spirituality, shamanism, the law of attraction, manifestation, fitness, and nutrition to get my life back on track. No one chooses to be a victim of abuse, but being a survivor takes conscious effort.
What is your manifesto? Rape is not a women’s issue, it’s a human issue. I have met hundreds of survivors of all ages, genders, races, & orientations. I have met women who carried their rapist’s child, men who were sexually abused by their mothers, a girl who contracted a terminal disease from her rapist, survivors as young as 3, and a 93-year-old woman who told me she will never forget her rape. There are so many ways that rape affects the world and even if it has never happened to you, it has transformed the lives of many people you know and love. No one ever taught me these lessons and I was forced to learn them myself. I hope that you will take something from this article and pass along the message because if we all work together, we can stop rape.
(Photography by Justin Munoz)