|Rape and sexual violence are still an unfortunate reality for women around the world. They have also long realized that it would take too long for them to be finally safe / Photo by: Tinnakorn jorruang via Shutterstock|
Rape and sexual violence are still an unfortunate reality for women around the world. They have also long realized that it would take too long for them to be finally safe. World Population Review, an online site that aims to make this data more accessible through graphs, charts, analysis, and visualizations, said that an estimated 35% of women worldwide have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime.
The report also showed that women aged 16 to 19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault. At the same time, female college students 18 to 24 years old are three times more likely to experience sexual assault. The countries with the highest rates of rape are led by South Africa with 132.4 incidents per 100,000 people, followed by Botswana (92.9), Lesotho (82.7), Swaziland (77.5), and Bermuda (67.3).
Unfortunately, the exact rape numbers are challenging to report because many women are afraid to come forward. They are shamed and blamed for being raped or hurt--a result of rape culture. Over the years, how people see rape has changed. In the 1980s, “rape” meant an attack from a stranger in a dark alley. It was not something that could be done by friends and acquaintances or between couples. Rape culture before was characterized by the idea that girls who drink are asking to get raped, boys owned girls, the kind of girl who gets raped has no right to complain about what happened to her, and more.
While there has been progress, these ideas are very much present in today’s modern society. Rape culture exists in every person who blames a rape victim of what happened to them, in every person who distinguishes “legitimate rape” and states that rape is “something that God intended to happen,” in every person that slut-shames women for their choices, in every person who blames girls for posting sexy selfies, and in every person who thinks that rape is a choice.
Understanding Rape Culture
The term “rape culture” was originally coined in the 1970s. It first appeared in a book titled “Rape: The First Sourcebook for Women,” which was published by the New York Radical Feminists Collective in 1974 and was explored in depth in the 1975 documentary “Rape Culture.” According to Vox, an American news and opinion website, it is a culture in which sexual violence is treated as the norm, and victims are blamed for their own assaults.
With rape culture, cultural norms, institutions, and even the majority of our society shame victims, protect rapists, promote impunity, and demand that women make unreasonable sacrifices to avoid sexual assault. In a 1975 book titled “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape” written by author Susan Brownmiller, rape was described as the ultimate act of male terror against women. “It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear,” she said.
Rape culture is perpetuated in several ways, from joking about rape to silencing institutions when allegations of sexual assault surface. It is teaching women to not get raped instead of teaching men about consent. It is also doubting survivors and reports of sexual assault. What most of us don’t understand is that a single statement, even silence, which puts the blame on rape victims strengthens the very core of rape culture: to shame and control women. This is being fought against by feminists and activists over the past year.
Judy Norsigian, the co-founder and executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves (also the classic text about women's health and sexuality), stated that rape is a problem particularly when men are being taught to be sexually active and aggressive, while women are taught to be sexually passive. “Rape is almost the logical consequence of the extreme acting out of these split sexual roles. We need to learn and relearn that rape is not primarily the act of an aberrant individual who is behaving in conflict with the predominant values of society,” she said.
|With rape culture, cultural norms, institutions, and even the majority of our society shame victims, protect rapists, promote impunity, and demand that women make unreasonable sacrifices to avoid sexual assault / Photo by: arindambanerjee via Shutterstock|
Standing Against Rape Culture
According to Arc Digital, an online site that’s committed to intellectual pluralism, feminists claimed that rape culture has been fueled by cultural tropes that often legitimize or romanticize coercive sex. Many stories and films have portrayed a female ravishment fantasy, which lets people imagine illicit sex without guilt and to feel “swept off their feet” in a safe setting.
Rape culture is endangering women’s lives every day. It frees men from being accountable for their actions and justifies their unwarranted sexual activities/thoughts toward women. According to UN Women, the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, all people have the opportunity every day to examine our behaviors and beliefs for biases that permit rape culture to continue. With that, here are some ways where we can fight rape culture.
1. Stop victim-blaming.
Rape is never a woman’s fault. Just because she’s wearing short skirts or a revealing top doesn’t mean she is asking to be sexualized and objectified. People should stop blaming something that men should be held accountable for. It is wrong to assume that everything a woman is doing is an invitation for you to rape her. It’s not.
2. Listen to survivors.
With the trauma they have experienced, rape survivors deserve to be heard. Their stories, while full of pain and trauma, are a reminder of how patriarchy continues to damage women’s lives. Fortunately, there are now online movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp, #NiUnaMenos, #BalanceTonPorc, and more that encourage women to speak up.
3. Educate the next generation.
It’s up to us to teach the next generation that rape is never okay. Children need to learn about consent and why women shouldn’t be blamed for being raped. In this way, we can ensure that the idea of rape culture will be erased in the minds of the people.
Rape culture is a reminder that women are not safe in this world. It’s time to fight not only rape culture but also the notion of patriarchy that perpetuates this kind of mindset.