By: Amanda K. Fox
Rape culture. Those are two words that don’t appear to go together, yet it is a phrase that is an all too familiar part of our lexicon. Rape culture is generally defined as an environment in which rape and sexual assault are not only common, but accepted. The general reaction to hearing that is “Wait a second! We don’t accept rape!”, but the startling reality is that in many subtle and sometimes overt ways, we most definitely do.
Stop for a moment before going any further and ask yourself if you can think of just one instance in which you know of a rape or sexual assault being excused for any reason. If you could think of just one, can you think of two? How about 5 or even 10? Rape and sexual assaults are more common that people tend to think. In the US alone, every 45 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted.
We use term sexual assault because unbeknownst to most people, it means something different from state to state. Generally, sexual assault is defined as unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. The problem is that in some states that is rape. It makes collating statistics accurately almost impossible outside of the broadest sense. Sadly, this number is still considered low. it does not account for under-reporting or victims that do not come forward. Also note, this is not just women, it includes men and minors because they are victims of rape/sexual assault as well.
How, as a global community, is this such a rampant problem? If you ask ten people, the odds are they will supply you with an assortment of some thirty or so reasons between them. They may cite, TV, music, video games, Godlessness, revealing clothing, lack of education, mental illness and the list goes on and on. The sad thing is, some of those people will say it is the victims fault.
Blaming the victim is particularly common when the victim is a woman. You’ve likely heard a number of the warped reasons used to excuse rape or sexual assault:
Common excuses among rapists (Courtesy of Crisis Connection)
She was asking for it.
She was dressed like a slut.
She didn’t try to stop me hard enough.
It was an accident.
We were drunk.
She’s too unattractive to be raped.
She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The fact is, none of those are valid excuses for rape, yet in court, each has been upheld as valid. That is not an exaggeration in the least. The lawyer for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the IMF used the “she’s too unattractive defense and people bought it. We were drunk? That’s worked too. She didn’t try to stop my heard enough – that’s been a winning argument. The clothing a woman wears – it’s also been a winner. She was asking for it – you guessed it – another winning defense.
Even in the last few months, in Arizona, the wrong place at the wrong time defense got a man that put his hand up the victims skirt who was in a bar, and ran his fingers over her genitals got him only 100 hours of community service. Of course the defendant was a police officer that entered the bar by flashing his badge to avoid paying a cover charge so maybe that excused him. The real story is Arizona trial Judge Jacqueline Hatch telling the victim on the record:
“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you . . . I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it,” Hatch said to the victim in court. “You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.”
What people have to remember is that rape is not about sex. it is about exerting power over another person. It is about control. it is often laced with violence. Legally, there are degrees of rape. it may be violent, non-violent, sexual assault in some cases, “legitimate” or even “illegitimate”. For the lawyers, that is all fine and well. For the victims and those who care about them, rape is rape.
That brings us back to the question at hand – how did we create a rape culture in which the role of abuser and victim got so horridly twisted? What we see and hear from the entertainment industry may play a small part. Bigger than that though, is what we see online. Memes making jokes about rape are more common than the overdone ERMAHGERD series. Facebook is a glaring example of rape apologists run amok. Groups with themes like “rape is funny”, “she wanted it”, “You know she’s playing hard to get when you’re chasing her….” and “”Throwing eggs at sluts, brick shaped eggs — made from brick,” are all examples of the type of thing that are not only present, but thriving.
Facebook has even defended many of the pages they refused to remove (although some have been taken down and launched under new names) as freedom of speech. Nothing more than the kind of jokes friends would tell over a couple beers. Do you see the humor in them? Never mind if they fall under the removal standards for being hateful, threatening, inciting violence or outright advocating rape – some even providing tips to get sway with it. The pages often generate huge traffic, so in essence, if it’s popular, Facebook is willing to be a rape apologist.
More glaring though is when people take in the news and see judges, like Jacqueline Hatch, telling the victim it is their fault. Sure you hand a stranger jam their hand up your skirt and fondle your genitals in public, but it’s your fault for being there. He’s a good guy. You must have been asking for it. How else could she have come to the conclusion she did?
Here are the hard and gruesome facts:
61% of all sexual assaults are estimated as going unreported.
About 70% of the time, the rapist is someone the victim knows.
97% never spend a day in jail for their crime.
Just under 7% of rape victims are impregnated by their rapist, and about the same number contracts and STD from their attacker.
It doesn’t matter who you are, you could be a rape victim. Man, woman, child – it doesn’t matter. Rape is the most heinous of crimes, leaving scars some never overcome. It is time to get a national standard in place in which rape is defined uniformly. It is beyond time to stop blaming victims and making excuses for rapists.
Imagine for a second if it was your spouse, child or mother that was raped. Would you want their rapist to walk away free because of a loose definition of rape or because someone sitting behind a judicial bench decided it was illegitimate of they were asking for it? Take action now and end rape culture! Don’t glorify rapists. Don’t tolerate jokes about rape online or among people you know personally. Most of all, stop blaming the victims!