How to prevent rape culture 101
[Content Warning: Rape, rape culture, violence, assault, and examples of everyday misogyny.]
If you’ve been avoiding the news for the past week, then you might have missed the latest misogynistic update out of beautiful sunny California. Warning: maximum feminist anger straight ahead…
In January 2015, “swimming star athlete” Brock Turner was caught by two witnesses in the act of rape outside of a Stanford fraternity. Almost a year and a half later, Turner was found guilty of 3 different counts of rape and assault by a jury of his peers. Despite the prosecution requesting a 6 year minimum sentencing, the judge, Aaron Persky, sentenced Turner to only 6 months in a local jail (3 months potential release for “good behaviour”), showcasing a sweeping example of rape culture and white privilege in the courtroom. As if the case couldn’t get worse, the guilty rapist’s father released a response to the verdict stating his son’s sentencing was “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.”
Translation: The rapist’s potential future is ruined for his ‘minor actions,’ but no acknowledgement or remorse was uttered for the potential future of the victim.
This, right here, is a golden example of Rape Culture.
Your blood’s already boiling, so let’s get to the heart of the issue: rape culture exists and is deeply entrenched in our society. In an attempt to maybe make this horrible situation into a learning experience, I’ve compiled a guide on how I think rape culture could be prevented in years to come.
Teaching Consent. Early.
Consent: (verb) to agree to do or allow something: to give permission for something to happen or be done (Merriam Webster definition)
Consent is easy to understand, but seems to be a difficult thing for some adults to wrap their heads around. However, parents can teach their kids as early as possible about consent.
Now consent doesn’t always need to be taught solely in relation to sexual encounters. Consent can also be applied to things like hugs from relatives and friends, sampling food from a sibling’s plate, or even consenting to sharing a secret with someone. Consent is everywhere, and learning to draw boundaries and establish bodily autonomy is an important developmental step for children.
Next time an aunt demands a hug from a child, parents can ask their child if they’re comfortable with it. It can be established early on that they have the right to say no, and that they should feel comfortable saying it. A parent should never pressure their child into doing something they’re not comfortable with. Remember: no does not mean ‘convince me.’
(Bonus) Teaching Consent alongside Healthy Sexuality to teenagers.
My case may have been unique, but when I was in high school I learned nothing about my bodily autonomy and consent. This could be because I went to a predominantly Mormon high school, and the fact that some Christian sects see ‘sexuality as a sin’ means it is often not taught.
Despite what any religious individuals may believe regarding sexuality, it is still vital to teach consent and healthy sexuality in sex education classes and during the ‘sex talk.’ Otherwise the only source of reference for teenagers is pop culture and its embedded rape culture. Which results in more cycles of violence, victim blaming, and misinformation.
If state and national curriculums begin to place a greater emphasis on sexual assault awareness and education, it’s very possible that our next generation of college students would be less likely to commit or facilitate rape on campus.
So to make a difference in your own community, take matters into your own hands – if you are comfortable enough doing it – and host the discussion with any teenagers in your life. Make sure you get consent from the teenagers and their parents to talk about it, and make sure they are completely comfortable asking you questions.
Acknowledging the damaging effects of Rape.
Rape jokes are not funny. Period. Rape is a serious issue that affects far too many people in the world. Making light of rape in any way feeds into rape culture, further harming victims, and devaluing their experiences. So… Never. Make. Rape. Jokes. As it’s been said before on Mookychick, rape culture is never funny.
Also, when there is a male victim of rape, their status as victims should never be discredited. Even if the 15 year old boy was having sex with the “hot teacher,” there is some serious psychological damage going on between the two (power dynamics are in play between the older perpetrator and victim, and victims can be confused on the meaning and application of consent). Statements like “I bet he liked it” or “Nice score, dude!” are dangerous because male victims of rape are just as likely to suffer and require counselling as female victims. There is no such thing as a “lucky” victim of rape, nor are men immune to falling victim to sexual violence.
(image courtesy of University of New England: Is Domestic Violence A Bigger Problem than We Realize?)
No matter the gender of the victim, survivors of rape are highly susceptible to suffering from PTSD. A recent convention at Bradley University focused on Neurocounseling and Brain Trauma hosted a discussion with researcher Laura Jones, who found that women were twice as likely to suffer from PTSD as men.
No one should ever take rape lightly, and we should call out others (if we can) for making light of a very harmful action.
Watching your Language.
The all-too-common phrase “boys will be boys” leads directly into rape culture territory. Teaching young men that their behaviour is simply a product of their gender further instills in them the idea that their actions are without consequence. In reverse, by telling young girls not to “act like a flirt” or “cover up” teaches them that they are to blame for others sexualising their body.
Don’t see the correlation? When girls wear tank tops in school, but are told to cover their shoulders because “it might be distracting to boys,” it teaches them that they are at fault. The boys may be distracted, but “boys will be boys,” right? Wrong. Boys can be taught to control themselves and girls can be taught that their comfort matters and isn’t dependent on men’s convenience.
Even further, women should not be told to adjust their behaviour to prevent their own rape. The painful phrases “What did she expect? Look at her outfit!” or “She was drinking!” can translate so easily to “She deserved it.” All women should be protected from the damaging effects of rape, no matter what their appearance or intoxication level is.
(courtesy of Twitter user @itsmotherswork)
Always Believe the Victim.
The hardest struggle I face in terms of fighting rape culture in my own life is believing the victim. The idea that women lie about rape or seek attention over victimisation is so heavily established in rape culture, that it’s something that has taken me years to overcome. I know it’s not an easy pill to swallow, but it’s important to constantly remind yourself: no person wants to endure the backlash that our society gives to victims when they come out about their rape.
Reading the comments on the reports of rapist Brock Turner is a prime example of the level of disbelief people have for victims of rape. Even when a rapist is found guilty, caught by two eyewitnesses, and sent to jail, people will still say that the victim was probably lying or exaggerating.
The truth of the matter is staggering in comparison to common conceptions on victims of rape. Although it is impossible to determine the exact percentage of false rape accusations, the common belief is that somewhere between 2-10% are false. This is only of reported assaults, too.
Most rapes are never reported to the authorities for a multitude of reasons; whether victims are close to their rapist and fear for their life, or they suffer from severe PTSD, or they may even fear that police will not handle their case seriously and they will be exposed to public ridicule. If a rape is reported, there are then months of waiting for trial and reliving the experience with only a minimal chance of conviction and justice served.
(image courtesy of RAINN: The Criminal Justice System: Statistics)
(Bonus) Do not Blame Victims for Not Reporting their Rapist.
There are many reasons why survivors might not report their rape to the authorities. We should never hold it against them for trying to protect themselves after a traumatic event. Emotional trauma is different for everyone. They should never be outed as a victim, and should never receive anger if they decide to confide in someone they trust. Always listen, offer comfort, and be a support system for those that need it.
(Ultra-Bonus) Create a Safe Community for Victims and Call Out known Rapists in your Community.
We can do our part in informing people in our community of dangerous outed rapists. (Outed rapists are ones that victims have given consent to name, even if the victims prefer to remain anonymous.) Let everyone you know that they can confide in you if they’ve been attacked.
We can aim to create a community that protects all victims of assault.
We should never give out a victim’s name without their consent. Not on social media or anywhere else.
As a society we can host consent workshops for rapists that are willing to learn and are apologetic for their actions. It’s important to acknowledge that some rapes happen due to a lack of knowledge. For the people that fall into this trap and become rapists (but are not prosecuted), there is the option of proceeding through an accountability process. They must avoid places that are deemed “safe” for victims of assault, take classes that teach them the importance of consent, and follow through with what the community has agreed is a viable path for accountability. This does not excuse their injustices, but it is a start to try to better what happened.
Rape culture is everywhere, and fighting it can be exhausting, but we must never give up in dismantling this damaging structure. No matter what the outcome, we must protect, honor, and believe the victim of any case of rape or assault. Sometimes standing up for those in need is the most powerful thing a community can accomplish.
The victim in the Stanford trial concluded in her court statement:
“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”
Main photo credit: CMCarterSS