What is Rape Culture?

 In September 2012, a 15-year-old girl named Audrie Pott hung herself after being bullied and publicly shamed for being raped.

  In April 2013, Canadian 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, ended her life after enduring two years of bullying for being gang-raped.

  Then there’s the Steubenville High School rape case, where some members of the community and the general public blamed the girl for being raped. It is also where major news outlets such as CNN showed misplaced sympathy for the rapists.

  There is something seriously flawed with our society if a girl is raped and then publicly shamed about it.

  “I think this is exactly why so few rapes are reported. Too often it turns into a question of what the victim did and not what her attacker did,” said Senior Adviser Jennifer McCort.

  These are just a few examples of rape culture at its worst. Rape culture is defined as a concept wherein sexual violence against men and women is normalized and excused. Actions associated with rape culture include blaming the victim, trivializing sexual assault, and teaching women not to get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.

  Rape culture is one of the main factors as to why victims become afraid of speaking out. In fact, sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes, with 54% of sexual assaults not being reported to the police according to a National Crime Victimization Survey.

  “Slut-shaming” is a term closely associated with rape culture. It derives from the idea of shaming the victims into thinking that their actions led to what happened.

  There are other  forms of slut-shaming, such as when girls that are comfortable and confident with their own sexuality are immediately labeled as “attention-whores”. If they are more outspoken and do not stay within the boundaries that are expected of women, people dismiss them and immediately assume that they are not deserving of respect.

  In a subtle but disturbing way, dress codes are also an example of this. The excuse that “it’s distracting to boys” when a girl wears shorts, reinforces the idea that girls should be the ones controlling themselves, and not boys. Perhaps instead of teaching girls to cover themselves up, we should be teaching students that they need to learn to respect each other’s bodies.

   “If someone feels confident wearing shorts, who am I to tell them otherwise,” states Senior Erin Gannon.

“No woman ever deserves to be raped. Period.”

An example of victim-blaming would be claiming that a girl  “deserved it” based on what she wore, her actions, or if she was intoxicated or not. When the case about Steubenville broke out, members of that community blamed the girl for casting a negative light on their esteemed football team. On social networking sites, several people commented that she was “asking for it” since she consumed alcohol.

  But as Ms. McCort states, “it is important to know, if you are drunk or under the influence, you cannot give proper consent.”

  It needs to be understood that a short skirt is not an invitation. Being unconscious is not an invitation. Walking home alone at night is not an invitation.

  Then there’s the whole “nice guy” concept where men think that committing basic forms of human kindness deserve some sort of award. It’s this kind of mindset that reinforces rape culture. We live in a society wherein some men believe they own a woman’s appearance or that acting a certain way should mean they immediately deserve a girl’s attention.

  “If a woman says ‘no’, that is it. It doesn’t matter if she agreed to go up to a hotel room, if she was flirty or wearing a skimpy dress, she has the right to change her mind and she should not be forced to have sex just because she ‘lead someone on’,” said Ms. McCort.

  These are all complex and sensitive issues, but something that needs to be acknowledged by our society. Simply talking about it will not instantly solve the issue, but it’s a good place to start.

  “I really think there should be more education on this, there needs to be more time and effort to be able to talk about it.” said Senior Noirita Saha.

  If you want to find out more about this issue, please visit this website found by Ms. McCort: www.rainn.org.