Rape culture: an ignored epidemic


Anton Bielousov

Women walk against sexism and rape in Toronto.

The media covers rape the least out of all other violent crimes. There are more than 200,000 victims, men and women, of rape annually in the US alone, which equates to one every two minutes. What’s even more unsettling is that 60 percent of the women who reported being raped are under the age of 18.

Unfortunately, most rape cases are dismissed and aren’t given proper attention. The Steubenville, Ohio case in August of last year, when two high school football players raped an unconscious classmate at a party, was certainly covered by the press. However, the coverage mostly pitied the rapists and blamed the young woman for getting drunk in the first place. CNN’s Poppy Harlow said that it was difficult to watch the lives of such promising young football players fall apart.

These two young men committed a violent crime, and they were barely being punished; their sentences are only one and two years in a juvenile correctional facility. The average time served for rapists is only around five years, despite the savage nature of the crime.

The phrase “rape culture” has been flying around the internet for years. A rape culture is where people are surrounded by images, language, laws, music, tv, and other media and influences that perpetuate rape and make rape be seen as something that cannot be stopped, or even reduced.

TV shows like Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, She Fought Alone, and others help to reinforce myths like the “stranger rape” myth, which says that rapists are often strangers to their victims. However, the media’s inventions are easily contradicted by evidence, 82 percent of victims are raped by a friend, date, or relative. These rapists often escape conviction because they don’t fit the mental image many people have of rapists.

Peoples’ ideas of rape is a problem, since it’s often seen as “she/he didn’t say no” rather than “she/he said yes.” Blaming the victim for the assaulter’s actions is the allows for rapists to continue because they are able to get out of punishments.

The ways that rapists squirm out of punishments are sometimes quite unusual and creative. A California man was acquitted for his crime in January this year because the victim wasn’t married. The victim thought the man entering her room at night was her boyfriend, and proceeded to have intercourse. However upon realizing that the man wasn’t who she thought, she screamed and pushed him away. He resisted the rejection, making the man seem guilty without a doubt. Despite this fairly clear-cut case, he still wasn’t sent to jail. The court cited a law from 1872 that said that he hadn’t committed rape because he hadn’t pretended to be her husband. The most outrageous part is that if the victim was married, then the man would have been behind bars.

Women are taught from a very young age many ways to protect themselves from rapists and criminals. They are told to “expect” rape, even that it would be their fault if they do get raped because of their clothes, behavior, or even because they let themselves get drunk or drugged.

Not only are women told to expect rape, but we’re supposed to almost forgive and pity these “poor men” who are led on by “mixed signals.” Additionally, many people think that victims make up rapes to get rid of the consequences of being “loose.” That dressing sexily, flirting and being drunk are automatic consents to anyone who wants sex.

There is no automatic consent. Any behavior leading up to intercourse is non-disputable. Both parties should be awake and not drunk out of their minds before starting intercourse and both should give clear consent, as in, one party, either the man or the woman, asks for permission and the other agrees verbally. In some ways, it’s like a contraceptive for rape.

 A significant part of the problem is that society expects women to dress up to get a guy and to dress up in similar ways to have a night out on the town. As a result, friends and strangers alike get mixed messages when women are dressed up, drunk, and feeling flirty.

This only shows that not enough people are taught that not everyone wants sex just because you do. While pretty obvious to some, it’s clearly not obvious to everyone.

Rape is never the victim’s fault; that’s why it’s a crime. When a person leaves their front door open, the person who walks in and takes their valuables is still a thief. The only time it’s not theft is when the owner of the house invites people into their home and asks them to take what they want. This is often simplified down to “no means no.”

But this simplification doesn’t always work. The existence of date rape means it’s not a perfect anti-rape system. Date rapists sometimes claim that they didn’t even know that they had raped the victim, because he/she had been flirting all night and the rapist believed that the victim was automatically consenting. They think they’ve simply had drunk sex at a party.

Sometimes, the rapist sees that the other party is dressed sexily, made up and flirting with him or her, and assumes, as many people would assume, that the night will naturally end with intercourse because the two parties want it. However, the rapist, guy or girl, crosses the line when he or she decides to have intercourse whether the other party is conscious or not.

We need to remember that both men and women can and have raped. Most of the time, these instances are looked over for multiple reasons. One, there’s the myth that men want sex all the time, no matter who it’s from. Also, if a woman touches them sexually they find it not only hard to refuse but difficult to classify. They think, “How can it be rape if it’s from a woman?”

To put it simply and clearly, vocal consent is always necessary before intercourse. We shouldn’t have to tell grown up people this, but our society has made it necessary. We, as those living in the world today, need to make it unnecessary.

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