Opinion

The Truth the Media Never Explains About Rape Culture

Over the course of just one decade, rape and sexual assault have increased by an alarming rate. In 2000, rape and sexual assault, while common, did not happen as regularly as now. If anything, rape rates should decrease, yet one in every five women in the United States have a chance of getting raped, and the estimate of women raped each year is as high as 1.3 million in the U.S. alone. The lowest estimate is 300,000, according to the Department of Justice, but even so, the amount is fairly high. Rape and sexual assault are so common in America, the U.S. is ranked #13 for rape.

One might ask, what is rape culture? By definition, rape culture is a concept which links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society; a culture where sexual violence is common, but considered normal and is dismissed in many ways.

One of the ways rape is dismissed is victim blaming. Victim blaming is when a victim of a crime is held responsible. This is extremely common in rape cases. It is so common, people who fall victims of rape and sexual assault turn away from reporting their abuser because they are afraid of being judged by the media.

Victim blaming links to slut shaming, which is also common in rape culture. Slut shaming is not a new phenomenon since certain words have been used to describe women; to “punish” them because their sexual activity is not what society finds acceptable. Society tells the victim it’s her fault because of what she was wearing, what she was doing or how many sexual partners she has. It has nothing to do with that. What someone wears has nothing to do with whether or not they are assaulted. They are not violating any code. A revealing shirt should not be the reason for rape. One should not say “they were asking for it,” because no one asks to be sexually assaulted or penetrated in any way. It does not matter if they were intoxicated or unconscious, or have had a number of sexual partners because consent was not confirmed.

Consent is the act of giving permission. Both people must be actively participating, exchanging in both verbal and nonverbal consent. If there is no consent, then it is rape, whether or not it was intentional or unintentional. Consent is very important and should be exchanged between partners during sexual contact.

Even if the person is related to the victim, married, or in any sort of relationship with the person, it is rape because there was no consent involved. In the U.S. alone, two out of three assaults are committed by someone the victim knows and about 38 percent of rapists are friends or acquaintances. Consent is not “she or he didn’t say no,” it’s, “she or he said yes,” and people must understand that no means no. No does not mean yes if you “know the signs” because forcing yourself on someone is rape.

Even so, statistics show that 44 percent of victims are under 18 years of age, and 80 percent are under the age of 30 according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or R.A.I.N.N for short. Rape rates are so high in the U.S., that approximately every two minutes, another person is sexually assaulted, and each year there are at least 237,868 victims of sexual assault.

An example of this is the incident in Steubenville, Ohio in 2012. Two high school students [Ma’lik Richmond, 16 and Trent Mays, 17 at the time] had repeatedly raped a sixteen-year-old intoxicated girl while she was unconscious. Even the bystanders took videos and pictures of the act as they tweeted about it and leaked videos onto the Internet. Since the girl was not conscious to give consent, it was rape. Others seem to think otherwise. CNN reporter, Poppy Harlow, grieved the two teenage rapists by stating that it was, “incredibly difficult to watch as these two young men—who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.” The CNN reporter continued to grieve as the two teenage rapists cried, but some people seem to forget that rape is rape.

Rapists are not the victims, even if that’s how a reporter makes them seem. The two boys were convicted of rape, sentenced to one year in juvenile hall, and registered as sex offenders. The fact that a number of people were sympathizing with the rapists—as if they were the victims—is upsetting since this case held the two rapists accountable for their actions after countless cases where the victim is at fault.

Apart from this, the “Jane Doe” victim was blamed for the actions of the two teenagers as the press stressed that she was intoxicated and “dressed inappropriately” while defending the rapists by stating that it’s “every parent’s nightmare.” Not only is it disgusting that people are actually defending the rapists, but it’s also unsettling that we live in a society where it is the victim’s fault for the crimes committed against them.

A woman’s chances of getting raped are higher than the chances of them acquiring critical diseases such as breast cancer. Statistics show that one in every four women will be raped in their college or university. An example of this would be the Emma Sulkowicz case. Sulkowicz, a 21-year-old student at Columbia University, was allegedly raped by an acquaintance of hers on her university campus on the first day of her sophomore year. At first, Sulkowicz said she didn’t report the incident because she, “didn’t want to deal with the emotional trauma,” and she was, “very ashamed, [Sulkowicz] was disgusted, and didn’t want to talk about it at all,” but after hearing from two other classmates that the same person had been abusive with them, she reported her rape. The other two girls had also reported their assault, but because the school did not want to treat it as a serial rape case, they were not allowed to mention each other’s cases. Instead, they treated them separately; students have even claimed that the school is too lenient with perpetrators and discourage victims from reporting an assault. According to TIME news, once Sulkowicz reported her alleged rape to school officials, a series of unnecessary delays and missteps had taken place.

Along with these delays and missteps, her rapist had begun to exaggerate the truth and she wasn’t given a chance to disprove the false statements before her case was dismissed. This isn’t the first time it has happened. School officials claimed that “there was not enough evidence to determine that it was more likely than not; that the respondent engaged in behavior that met the definition of sexual assault.”

Because no one would call attention to her case, Sulkowicz began a campaign for her senior thesis: Carry that Weight, where she carries her mattress with her around the campus to protest the school’s inaction.

Carrying her mattress around the campus symbolizes how she has been alone in it all after her attack because no one would do anything about it. She is determined to carry her mattress around until her alleged rapist is expelled from the school since he is still on campus and the project could last as long as the whole school year. Sulkowicz states, “Everyday I’m afraid of leaving my room. Even seeing people who remotely look like my rapist is a scary thing for me…as long as he’s on campus with me, he can continue to harass me.” According to The New York Times, Sulkowicz also stated she doesn’t ask people for help since it goes against her thesis, but since then, her fellow classmates have stepped in on their own to help her. A separate movement called Carry that Weight Together was created by student Allie Rickard.

As stated by Democracy Now!, on September 8  the school stated, “These matters are extremely sensitive, and we do not want to deter survivors from reporting them. The university, therefore, does not comment on these matters.” At the end of the day, Emma Sulkowicz still sees her rapist on the university campus, thus making it hard for her and other rape survivors to feel safe on their own school grounds.

Many seem to be conflicted by the topic of ending rape culture mostly because it’s so common, that many feel like even if they do shine a light on recent events and previous cases, it won’t be enough to promote a safer environment for everyone in the society.

Amarych Chavez, a freshman in the Tech & Media Magnet, said, “We live in a culture where there’s a lot of rape. I think it’s because people are desperate for sex that there is so much rape.” Chavez brought up her opinion on school dress codes as well. She said, “It’s wrong, but I guess it’s meant to help.”

Dress codes, although created to prevent inappropriate attire from being worn to school, also influence rape culture and sexism. Dress codes are mostly addressed towards women, making unnecessary regulations like covering shoulders, collar bones, and even bra straps. Dress codes are sexist, and the excuse, “boys will be boys.” is not valid, thus prompting boys to think that things like cat-calling and touching a girl is okay. That phrase is what influences sexism and rape culture, stating that girls who break these regulations are so called, “sluts” and “whores.” They are not those things. No one should sexualize the female body, and if they do, they shouldn’t blame girls for it. It is not a girl’s fault for having female body parts.

Another student, Miguel Moran, who is also a freshman in the Tech & Media Magnet said, “[Rape] is wrong and [society] should stop blaming the victim. We all have self-control and victim blaming shouldn’t be the solution to rape.”

Among these two students, was freshman Lysander Zepeda in the Tech & Media Magnet, who said, “Rape is horrible. It’s unfair and unnecessary to put people in positions where they become the person responsible for the crime that they didn’t do. It’s completely wrong and disrespectful.”

Rape culture isn’t something we should be proud of. Slut shaming and victim blaming isn’t something we should be doing. Survivors have become so afraid of being blamed that they back down from reporting their assault completely. It’s outrageous and a terrible thing to put these survivors through, but still, rape is a common problem that the community doesn’t do anything about.  We should be putting these rapists into prison for their actions. We should be changing the fact that 97 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail. 100 percent of rapes should be reported, not just 60 percent.

There should be no states where a rapist can sue for custody and visitation rights for their child conceived because of rape. No one should be encouraging rape, and educating everyone in the society is the first step to getting there.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s