The Normalization of Sexual Violence Through Rape Culture

With the rush of sexual assault allegations in the past few years, we hear the term “rape culture” often. But what exactly is rape culture? Rape culture is defined as a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse. We live in a society that normalizes this culture on a daily basis. You probably experience rape culture on a daily basis without even realizing it.

Rape culture supports the idea that men hold some sort of power over women. It is perpetuated on social media, on TV and in movies, in the music we listen to and even in the language we choose to use. We see colleges and universities actively try and sweep rape cases under the rug for the sake of their image, TV shows joke about sexual violence and depicts men as aggressors and women as compliant and advertisements constantly sexualize females. Some may believe rape culture doesn’t exist in this country, but we elected a man who was recorded admitting his fame allowed him to sexually assault women.

We even see rape culture in our justice system; most people have heard of the Brock Turner rape case. Turner, a swimmer at Stanford University, was convicted of sexually assaulting a young woman behind a dumpster. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail and served only half of that sentence. Turner’s father defended his son saying:

These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

Think about that for a minute. The Turner family does not take sexual assault seriously. They do not even for a second stop to think how Brock’s actions have changed this young woman’s life forever.

Bill Cosby admitted under oath to drugging women and I can’t even count how many times I read someone say, “Leave him alone already, he’s an old man”. It seems that men always have an excuse. Even worse, he was not convicted of his crimes.  That is rape culture.

Instead of saying “boys will be boys” and teaching our daughters how not to get raped, we need to take action to combat rape culture. Here are a few ways you can help diminish this culture in our country:

Teach About Consent

If you play a role in a young person’s life you can help fight rape culture simply by speaking with them about sex and what consent means. This includes how consent works, how to receive consent, and what to do when a sexual partner refuses or retracts consent. Conversations that promote safe and healthy sex should not be avoided.

Avoid Victim Blaming

This also includes slut shaming. So many survivors of rape are accused of asking for it or told it was their own fault. How many times have we heard a rape victim be asked “what were you wearing?”, “how much did you have to drink?” and more. These types of responses lead to women not reporting their assaults. Non-consensual sex is rape regardless of the circumstances. We even see women being slut-shamed for having a healthy sex life. This does not mean anyone is “asking for it”.

Don’t Be a Bystander

If you are a witness to sexual assault and harassment don’t turn a blind eye to it. Ask the victim if she is okay or needs help. And if you feel safe in the moment, intervene. Calling out rape jokes and misogynistic language is also an important part of combating rape culture. You can learn more about bystander intervention here.

These are just a few examples of how we can all help end rape culture. Challenging conventional gender roles, creating policies that support victims and calling out problematic media are also great ways to fight this culture. The more we teach our children about consent and proper behavior and support victims of these crimes, the less normalized this behavior and culture becomes.

Here are some organizations working to end rape culture that you can support:

Men Can Stop Rape

March to End Rape Culture

End Rape on Campus

Cultures of Consent

 

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