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Sexual Assault and Rape Culture

We wanted to introduce you to an issue that is deeply rooted in gender inequality but might seem sort of separate from the rest of the issues.

Unlike women reaching parity in businesses and government, which primarily stems from decisions of an older or even past generation- rape and sexual assault are something OUR generation is perpetuating.

We know not all boys are involved in sexual violence- obviously.  But it is sort of hard to remove all blame from the men this time- sorry.  I think one fact that makes this issue all the more upsetting is that this problem is a result of decisions made by our peers. Our classmates, our co-workers, our acquaintances.  So honestly, if there is any feminist issue for our generation to get riled up about- this is it.

According to raiin.org:

  • Someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. every 2 minutes
  • There are about  207,754 people sexually assaulted each year
  • 54% of rapes will not be reported to the police
  • 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail
  • 2/3 of sexual assault are committed by someone known to the victim.
  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime

Funny, they didn’t have any stats about the gender of the perpetuators…. But don’t worry. we found that stat right here:

  • 99% of people who rape are men, 60% are Caucasian.

One thing the media is really great at doing is sexually objectifying women.  Both men and women are taught that women are objects for men to use sexually.  This essentially dehumanizes the woman, and reduces her to something without thoughts and feelings. Pair that with socializing men to be aggressive, dominant and triumphant, and rape could become a really horrible side effect of gender norms.

Often times, when we picture a rapist we conjure up images of a psychopathic sketchy man in an alley- but in reality the men committing rape are usually otherwise functional members of society- maybe even in college.  Sexual violence could be viewed as an extension of the problem of men’s violence- and let’s be honest- practically all violent crime is committed by men.  Something needs to be changed in the way we are socializing our boys to think about 1) violence and 2) women.

Some of you are probably saying, “it’s not just socially constructed- it’s partially biological.” Which is probably true… but honestly, to us that sort of sounds like an excuse…  If it’s not an excuse, then why bring it up? What other function is there in that argument besides removing responsibility or to put it eloquently, removing agency?  We are all civilized human beings; we think it would be more worthwhile talking about what we can change.

Which brings us to… Rape Culture.

Rape Culture doesn’t just refer to the people who commit sexual assault. Instead, it describes an an attitude held by general society that normalizes, tolerates, excuses and condones sexual violence.

The language we use, jokes we tell, or images we see often tolerate–or worse, glamorize sexual violence.  When we consistently see sexual violence, it is easy to become desensitized and regard it as funny or tolerable and not for what it really is–a horrific and devastating crime.

The other part of rape culture has to do with how we see the players in sexual violence.  When we hear about rape or assault we try to look for answers and in that search we place blame.  If a girl was not wearing a short skirt, could she have avoided being brutally raped?  We need to shift the blame off of the victim in this way.

Why is it taken for granted that women have to build their lives and make decisions around the possibility and threat of sexual violence?  We think it almost a natural state to have internalized the threat of rape. We should not have to be afraid to go places alone, walk at night, or get too intoxicated with male acquaintances.  Isn’t it bad enough that we have to be afraid of regular violent crime like muggings?  We are raised with this imprisoning fear of rape, so we don’t even recognize that we should be free from it.

Unfortunately, the acceptance of this state as “natural” leads to both men and women believing that if one does not take the necessary precautions, it is somehow her fault. 

But it is never the fault of the victims of sexual violence.  Ever.

The blaming the victim routine is not only destructive to any gains we could make in  stopping sexual assault, is is also devastating to the victims.  The last thing we want is for a young girl who is a victim to be internalizing blame and telling herself “I shouldn’t have gotten so drunk” or “I should have worn a different outfit (really???)”

The worst type of blaming is when the victim’s honesty is questioned.   We should all know that it is hard enough for a woman to publicly talk about being sexually violated in a society that shames women for being too sexually active.  We should all know that when we talk about how the victims of rape “should have taken better precautions,” speaking is even harder.  Why would we question her if she comes forward? A girl has to be very brave in today’s society with the presence of rape culture.

We want to be perfectly clear on this, she should feel ABSOLUTELY NO SHAME WHATSOEVER, because SHE did not do anything wrong.  When this type of blame and questioning exists, it is no wonder that it is estimated that only a handful of rapes are reported.  So please, please, please- do not support a culture that accepts and excuses rape. Help create an atmosphere of absolute intolerance to sexual violence.

Blaming, shaming, and questioning victims of sexual violence is the saddest part of Rape Culture and why we need to change it.

You can see things you can do here.

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