About the author: Sarah graduated from Messiah College in December 2009 with a B.A. in Human Development & Family Science. She currently works full-time in the mental health field but will soon be transitioning to full-time farming with a local CSA. When she is not working, you can find Sarah capturing nature through photography, spending time outdoors, and most often enjoying time with her daughter, family and friends.
If you don’t care about rape, you are allowing rape culture to thrive.
After processing the tragic gang rape in Delhi and the recent situation in Steubenville, Ohio, I became encouraged that the crime of rape was getting so much exposure in the media. The demonstrations demanding more safety and rights for women in regards to justice for sexualized violence are what should be happening. Hundreds of community members across the globe are expressing their disfavor of rape, their disgust of rapists, and their desire for change. Now they know what they are doing: they are fighting and taking care of each other!
I shared my excitement with peers reflecting that this could be the start of a change in society’s perception about sexualized violence. I was quickly disheartened when peers responded by not knowing anything about what I thought to be highly publicized responses to recent tragedies, only two of many. After catching them up on the stories I was again disappointed when one peer responded to my input with, “I get why you are worked up about it, but I just don’t have a connection with it.”
I held my tongue. Until now.
By not caring about rape and believing that you somehow “don’t have connection with it,” you’re allocating rape culture a place in society. You may not be familiar with rape as a culture, so I’ll explain it: Rape is a defining characteristic of society and has manifested itself across the globe–the U.S. is not excluded. Rape prevails as a stigmatized blame game in which victims are continually disregarded and shamed in our communities. Rapists are defended, excuses for their actions are accepted, and very rarely do they receive consequences for their crimes against women (and men). In fact, according to RAINN, 97 out of every 100 rapists receive no punishment. These harmful societal attitudes of victim-blaming and norms of shaming are referred to as rape culture.
Even if you have not been a victim of sexualized violence, you should care about societal attitudes and perceptions about sexualized violence. Here is why:
- Every two minutes somebody in the United States is assaulted. One in three women around the world will be raped, beaten, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. When you look around a room of 20 women, five have most likely been somehow sexually assaulted. With these rates you will be personally impacted. Someone you know may commit the crime or be perpetrated against. Think of your siblings, your children, your best friend, yourself.
- While survivors may feel a stronger need to abolish rape culture, haven’t they done enough just by surviving? While they have made it through the hardest part of surviving the event they still have memories, flashbacks, and triggers that they work through on a daily basis. Share that burden by fighting for those who have already been victimized.
- If society is not made aware of the damaging attitudes being condoned and even instilled in children, there will be a price to pay. As long as sexualized violence continues to be brushed under the rug, it will continue occurring. If society is not exposed to and forced to realize the damage being done, innocents who are meant to achieve in ways beyond our imagination may potentially be ruined by these crimes.
- If the absolute horror of the Steubenville rape case or Delhi gang rape is not enough to make your skin crawl to the point of at least admitting that change must be made, I don’t know what will.
I am not unrealistically hopeful to think that rape will be completely abolished. But we have to start somewhere. Perhaps the most progress can be made in the area of what happens before and after an incident of sexualized violence. Changes should be made to help prevent incidents. We need an abundance of education and awareness about sexualized violence and respect for all human beings. Changes to be made after an incident include never disregarding, blaming, or shaming the survivor; these actions essentially re-victimize the survivor. Perpetrators should receive fewer accommodations and no acceptance of excuses, along with definite consequences and rehabilitation so they do not perpetrate again.
We have to start somewhere.
You can start by caring.