Changing Rape Culture

Briony Greenhill
4 min readJun 15, 2022

Bless the Girl. And the boy. And the non-binary teen. Bless all our youth, and hold them into wholesomeness. For All Kinds of Reasons.

In 2017, I was at Tamera, Portugal. Something had triggered me, so I found my way to the main hall and the grand piano there. A man was already in there, playing flute to a backing track. I danced, and as I did, images came to me of how dangerous it had been in my teens, as my sexuality was arriving, to let that show in any way.

The flute player finished, I sat down at the piano, and improvised Bless the Girl. Here is that live improvisation, and then here is the song we recorded for Crossing the Ocean, complete with choir, a beautiful horn arrangement by Simon Dobson, and stunning cello playing from Ailsa Mair Hughes. We recorded it live, Ailsa Tom (bass) and I, and were all in tears by the end. You might still be able to hear a sniff at the end of the recording.

So many of us have been raped. Our mothers have been raped. Our teachers have been raped. We talk quietly among ourselves, as women. Who was raped at 12. Who was raped at 14. Who was raped by two people at once, who has been raped 3 times. How it has affected us. How we are healing. We help each other.

How long will this continue for? I look at the next generation of girls coming through. I don’t want them to be raped. What will protect them?

I think the Me Too movement in 2017 helped to bring into shared awareness quite how widespread rape culture is. But what I think we haven’t done yet as a culture is address prevention, adequately.

On 15th May 2022 I invited leading Rites of Passage practitioners and Sexual Healers to gather with me to discuss: how do we, as adults, support young people to create a healthy, non-toxic sex culture? How do we shift how we hold the emergence of sexuality in adolescence?

It might be an icky topic. We usually get 30–50 people turn up for a Call off the Thought and Sing. For this one, 10 booked, 5 came. It was tiny. Just one man in the audience— my partner. And Frederick, the speaker. 2 men, a bunch of women. Determined, we went deeply into the conversation.

Here it is. 90 mins, including dancing and movement. Movie night?

On May 22nd we performed Bless the Girl live for the first time at Ashburton Arts Centre. Here we all are. Totnes Brass Band agreed to join in. You can’t see it here, but the whole audience — 150 strong — sang too.

We could fit 6 horn players on stage. 8 showed up. Bob, the chair of Totnes Brass, emailed me afterwards.

“Hi Briony

I just felt I’d like to share a bit more about why you had extra trombones two weeks ago!

You said there was room for 6 of us, and we worked out what we’d need for a balanced sound. At the rehearsal, two turned up, when we only expected one. Neither Paul nor I wanted to say anything, as they both obviously wanted to be part of it, having heard the song, which I’d sent to the band a few weeks earlier. They both told me, separately, that they had been deeply moved by it. Both are older guys, one is a doctor and the other is a retired policeman, so they’ve seen a lot of what the song is about.

Everyone I’ve spoken to who was there was deeply affected by the whole show, but that song in particular.”

For me, the brass on that song has always felt like the community circling up around us, and raising the horns, to blast into the air: ‘protect everyone! Protect the girls! Protect the young! Protect the sanctity of sexuality! Don’t shame her! Don’t rape her! Bless the girl!’

How does sex ed need to change. How do we create a rites of passage culture. When a long Judeo-Christian culture has deemed sex sinful, placed it into the shadows,

how do we shift now to say, sex is part of life. It emerges in adolescence. How does support evolve into embodiment, emotions, communication, power, boundaries, consent, the emotional spiritual and relational aspects of intimacy and not just the physical, almost biological sex ed I got in 1993 from a culture that didn’t seem equipped to hold the true nature of the matter.

Let’s evolve how we support our young.

Thank you for your attention. Bless all girls, and all boys, and all two-spirit youth, and people, and the body, the heart, the earth, Eros; all that is sacred in this precious world, this precious life.

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Briony Greenhill

Briony Greenhill is a folk-soul improvisational artist who teaches Collaborative Vocal Improvisation (CVI); formerly a researcher with a 1st in politics.