WHAT IS RAPE CULTURE?
Rape culture is prevalent in a society that perceives sexual assault as normal due to gender-biased attitudes and stereotypes. It includes victim-blaming, meaning the victim is held either completely or partially responsible because of what they were wearing or if they were intoxicated. It encompasses a society that allows sexual objectification, rape jokes and trivializing circumstances.
What is rape culture? It is being mocked for trying to bring attention to the normalization of rape in television shows, movies and social media. It’s accusing the victim of ruining someone’s life, even though they did the right thing by reporting a crime.
Rape culture is Yale fraternities making their pledges chant “no means yes” repeatedly while being hazed. It’s a Texas Tech fraternity distributing an email titled “Luring your rape bait.” It’s the act of hanging up a “Top 10 ways to get away with rape” poster at the Miami University of Ohio.
According to the US Department of Justice, teens 16 to 19 years of age are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault. This proves it is a pressing issue that is specifically affecting high school and university students.
Although rape is committed by women as well as men, statistics from the charity One In Four, which provides support and resources to people who have experienced sexual abuse and sexual violence, show that in 93 percent of cases of men who are raped, a man is the perpetrator.
Marc Lamont Hill, a CNN political commentator, argues that jokes involving some form of sexual assault or rape contribute to “cultural logic that minimizes the immorality, illegality and trauma of rape.”
Many are not even aware that the things they are doing and saying are wrong when they take part in rape culture. A teenager who believes rape is bad may make a rape joke and not even realize they are supporting the very act they claim to reject. That “harmless” rape joke is making light of a horribly traumatizing crime and trivializing its seriousness.
“I think [rape culture] is something that goes unseen and [is] not talked about, but I think it’s pervasive, and people can enable it and propagate it without intending to,” junior Jack Posey said.
Lack of education on rape across America gives people an unrealistic idea of what rape actually is to the extent that people can’t even comprehend that what they are joking about is in fact rape and not just someone’s drunken mistake.
“I was never educated about rape or sexual violence in school, and I think this needs to change,” said 2014 McLean graduate Maggie Lam, who was raped at a party while in high school. “People need to be aware that rape culture exists even in high school.”
Crime shows like NCIS, CSI and Law and Order: SVU bolster an incorrect idea of rape in the minds of the public. The media paints an unrealistic picture of crime that often keeps people who have been raped from reporting it. They are unable to see their attack as a “real” rape because it was not like the rape they see on television.
“This easy accessibility can make sexual assault more normal, and it’s not,” school psychologist Beth Werfel said.
Nine out of 10 college victims know their attackers, according to the US Department of Justice. Rapists are not just random, criminally insane strangers—they are trusted friends, family members and even lovers.
Imagine a person reporting that their car had been broken into to the police, and having the police respond by shrugging it off, saying that if they drive that kind of car, they should expect to have things taken from them. This is victim-blaming: holding a victim responsible for a crime they could not prevent.
Victim-blaming often keeps rape victims from reporting the crime. It is hard for someone to come forward when they know their character, choices and story will be thoroughly questioned. Keeping the attack to themselves may seem like the easier choice for many.
“Taking action is how we will be able to combat the entire rape culture,” Lam said.
Lam realizes how difficult it may be to report rape, but reporting a rapist may prevent them from committing the same crime again. It also teaches people that rape is not a trivial crime.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
Rape is one of the most psychologically damaging crimes, and it can scar victims for life. It needs to be addressed in high school, where potential rapists first learn society’s acceptance of maltreatment of women.
Without properly addressing college life to high school students, teens are vulnerable at college parties that usually encourage binge drinking and all-night partying. The connection between drinking and assault deserves more attention from administrators and teachers of both high schools and universities.While preparing young women for what could come when they graduate high school is important, they are not the only ones who need to be prepared. Rape perpetrated by the victim’s acquaintance can frequently be prevented with more education.
Some institutions have already made steps towards informing their students. Programs like the University of Maryland’s required peer-on-peer sexual assault education workshop need to be more present on college and high school campuses. Proper education on the realities of rape is crucial, especially in the formative years of adolescence.
Rape culture does exist in colleges, but one cannot ignore its prevalence within high schools. Many high school students have trouble even grasping what rape is, or understanding the seriousness of the issue. If young people are never taught how to treat their peers properly and respect other people’s bodies, they won’t see any problem with their actions when they get to college and perpetuate rape culture.
Women can be rapists too. Pushing someone past their boundaries is possible no matter what gender they are. Males should not stay silent when they are taken advantage of because they believe they will be ridiculed or laughed at for coming forward. It is important to always make sure that someone gives consent no matter their gender, and to treat all victims equally regardless of whether they are male or female.
Only when society rejects the existing culture surrounding sexual abuse will it be able to be extinguished.
Don’t laugh it off when that kid in class makes a rape joke. Learn that what a person is wearing isn’t an indication that they are seeking to have sex. Don’t call someone a liar or attention-seeker because a “respectable” person is accused. Don’t fuel the wildfire that is rape culture just because everyone else is doing it.
Do report sexual crimes. Do stop laughing at jokes that mock a serious criminal act. Be there for friends, sisters, brothers and loved ones if they fall victim to rape or sexual assault. Take victims’ claims seriously. Make a conscio