Rape Culture: What It Really Means & How It's A Problem

  • 1 in 6 women report being raped, or experience an attempted rape, in their lifetime
  • About 63% of rapes are not reported
  • 8 out 10 women knew the person who assaulted them
  • Women are 9 times more likely to be raped in their home or the home of someone they know
  • Between 80 and 90% of victims know their attackers
  • 34% of victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12
  • 66% of victims of sexual assault and rape are age 12-17
  • 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to police while 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail 
-1 in 4 women on college campuses report being sexually assaulted or raped
-More than 90% of college rapes are not reported

-1 in 3 women are assaulted by their fellow service members
-33% of servicewomen didn’t report their assaults because “the person to report to was a friend of the rapist,” while 25% didn’t report because “the person to report to was the rapist.”

Cited reasons why women did not report their rape:
1. Fear of reprisal
2. Not important enough
3. Fear that police wouldn’t believe them
4. Belief that nobody would do anything about it
5. Not enough proof
6. Fear of the justice system
7. Did not know how
8. Embarrassment
9. Unsure about perpetrator’s intent
10. Did not want others to know

Teaching girls and women to be careful about what they wear, to take up less space, be passive, be nice, but not too nice, smile, but not at strangers, don't make eye contact, watch where you walk, when you walk, how you walk, don't sleep with too many people, don't invite attention, take self-defense, never walk alone, carry your keys between your fingers, don't leave your drink unattended, be on high alert, always be aware of your surroundings, don't carry nice bags or where nice jewelry, be careful who you answer your door for and who you go on dates with, to not be sexy, not make dirty jokes, not put yourself out there. 

We are taught that if you don’t follow one or all of these “rules” and you are attacked, then you are responsible for your own rape.

It is infuriating to me that we as a society are constantly telling women what they should and should not be doing and trying to make being assaulted something that should be avoided. We need change the conversation, stop focusing on women as a means to end rape, and instead focus on the messages that boys and men are receiving and how they relate to women. Young men need to be educated about what consent looks like. And need to be shown by example what kind of appropriate punishment comes with rape. Young boys need to be shown that women are to be respected and that they are not objects. I think about dress codes at schools. No spaghetti straps, bare midriffs or short skirts, because they are “distracting”, and if you break the dress code, you are sent home from school.  This is an example of how we teach young boys that it is okay to objectify women, how we teach young girls that their appearance is more important than their education and how we show both genders that women are expected to conform in order to avoid negative attention from men. 

We need to change the messaging that society is receiving about what kind of women get raped, and why. We need to stop letting off rapists. We need to start taking rape and sexual assault seriously as a society. No woman should feel she is to blame for her rape, or feel threatened to come forward or feel nobody would believe her.  We need to redefine what masculinity and femininity means. The messages that men receive surrounding masculinity from a young age are too often about violence and about exerting power and control.  Women are taught to be passive and pleasers and to conform.

A simple lesson in rape

Rape culture relies on the inclination to blame the victim and make an excuse for the rapist.  Excuses are often made in benefit of the rapist- from alcohol abuse, to being “egged on”, or, my favorite, male biological makeup.  This is true even more so for the “privileged” (whether that mean social or financial status), which are often let off because they suffer “affluenza” or because the rapist is an athlete or an actor, or a white Stanford student with a promising swim career. Instead of seeing the rapist as a rapist, we often mourn the loss of a career or potential career or feel badly for them because their lives are ruined.

The survivor is often forced to be victimized through disbelief, ‘slut shaming’ and smear campaigns.  Rape culture suggests that sexual assault and rape is caused by the victim’s personal choices (ie: wearing a mini skirt, partying, drinking to much, being flirtatious). Instances of victim blaming include absolutely irrelevant and inappropriate questioning about what the victim was doing before she was raped, what she was wearing, whether or not she drank too much, etc.

Rape culture tells us that when we don’t say no for whatever reason- whether that be lacking the confidence, not feeling safe enough to say no, not being ABLE to say no, etc, then our silence means ‘yes’, we consent, we want it, or are “asking for it”.

This video, titled 'Tea Consent', really breaks it down best

It's pretty cut and dry-

If I don't ask for fucking tea or don't respond to your offer of tea emphatically (and clearly, with my eyes open), then I don't want your fucking tea.

-Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
-Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
-Sexually explicit jokes
-Tolerance of sexual harassment
-Inflating false rape report statistics
-Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
-Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television
-Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
-Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
-Pressure on men to “score”
-Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
-Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
-Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
-Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape
-Tasking the victim with the burden of rape prevention
-Victim blaming
-Judges banning the use of the word rape in the courtroom.
-The idea that only certain people rape, and certain people get raped
-Narrative that sex workers can’t be raped
-Narrative that a significant other can’t be raped
-A ruling that says women cannot withdraw consent once sex commences (in Maryland)
-The narrative that there is a “typical” way to behave after being raped, instead of the acknowledgment that responses to rape are as varied as its victims
-Treating women’s bodies like public property

1. Avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women
2. SPEAK OUT about rape culture
3. If someone you know says she has been raped, take it seriously, be supportive and encourage them to report it
4. Think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships, and violence
5. Educate boys AND girls about consent and the rights to our bodies
6. Always communicate with sexual partners and do not assume consent
7. Define your own manhood or womanhood.  Do not let stereotypes shape your actions.

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