LET'S TALK: Rape, rape culture and the bigger dialogue
Although the suspension and rape allegations against Michael Dixon Jr. brought the conversation about rape culture to the forefront of a lot of minds, the issue is bigger than one situation, one community and one time. It's part of a bigger dialogue.
- Missourian readers from the Feminist Student Union at MU wrote a response to online conversation surrounding the Dixon allegations. In their post, they wrote, "We think everybody on this campus needs more education on the subject of rape. From Daniel Tosh’s horrific comments earlier this year, to Todd Akin’s misguided biology, to the mockery made of the 'campus bear hugger' sexual assault on women has been heavily publicized and public discourse is not improving."
- The writers went on to say, "We fear rape as the 'evil man jumping out of the bushes,' but rape most commonly presents itself in less overt ways — it's not black and white. It is oftentimes someone the victim knows and someone they hold in high regard.
- Therefore, we cannot dismiss allegations because they do not fit social assumptions of rape. An individual never loses his or her right to refuse sex, no matter what the circumstance. Consenting to one intimate act, such as kissing, is not consenting to all forms of sex. We must not mistake self-preservation and safety for consent."
Misconceptions and realities
- An activist website, FORCE: upsetting rape culture, says, "The image of forcible rape is the only publicly recognized image of sexual violence in America, and it is not realistic. Rapists do not only use physical violence. Rape is not only committed by a few sick criminals. Rape is not a rare occurrence. Rape is much more complicated and much more common. If sexual violence is going to end, Americans need to drop the story of 'forcible rape' and face reality."
- Some of the myths are addressed in this post by the organization Peace Over Violence.
Here are some points from the website.
Rape is not sex, it is violence.
Myth: Only certain types of women get raped. It could never happen to me.
Reality: Anyone can be raped. Women and men from the very young to the elderly, people of all ethnicities, socioeconomic levels and all sexual orientations are raped.
Myth: Rapes are committed by strangers at night in dark alleys.
Reality: Most rapes are committed by someone the woman knows and at any time of day or night. Women are raped most commonly in their own homes.
Myth: Men can’t be raped.
Reality: Men can be and are sexually assaulted. Their attackers are almost always other males. The survivor in such sexual assaults is not necessarily, nor usually, gay.
Myth: Acquaintance rapes are not as serious as stranger rapes.
Reality: Acquaintance rape is as serious as rape by a stranger. Women who are raped by someone they know experience a similar degree of trauma as those raped by a stranger. Some specific feelings may be different but not the severity of the feelings.
- FORCE explains that "In a rape culture, people are surrounded with images, language, laws, and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate rape. Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable."
Blaming the victim
- In a guest blog on loveisrespect.org, Courtney writes, "My heart sinks for every girl who is afraid to come forward about her sexual assault because maybe she did have 'one too many' that night. No one should ever have to worry that if someone hurts them that it was in any way their own fault or that they brought it upon themselves. No more is sexual assault the victim’s problem."
- In a 2010 London survey reported by the BBC, "The study found that women were less forgiving of the victim than men. Of the women who believed some victims should take responsibility, 71% thought a person should accept responsibility when getting into bed with someone, compared with 57% of men."
- In an article about underreported sexual assaults on the University of Wisconsin campuses, Kate Golden, Alex Morrell and Sara Jerving wrote, “They see victims get annihilated for speaking, they get slandered, they’re the butts of jokes. The frenzy of victim-blaming,” said rape activist Laura Dunn, who has accused two former UW-Madison athletes of sexually assaulting her while she was a freshman in 2004. “They see that going forward means you’ve got to be ready for that.”
- A 2010 Missourian story reported: "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20 percent of women are the victim of rape or attempted rape while in college. At MU, as of fall 2009 with 12,412 females enrolled, that would be roughly 2,500 undergraduate women who have been or will be sexually assaulted during their college years — although not all those cases would happen on campus." The story addresses legal definitions of "consent." Victims' advocates' definition of that word differs from what the law says.
- According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 54 percent of rapes or sexual assaults are not reported to the police. And only 3 percent of those rapists ever serve a day in jail. Yet every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, making 207,754 victims of sexual assault each year.
The problem of false accusation
During the 2006-07 Duke lacrosse situation, three Duke lacrosse players were falsely accused of kidnapping and raping a woman at a party. The story became of national interest as three young men were painted as living in a "narcissistic, sex-saturated, self important world of privilege that male athletes lay claim to, even no-name lacrosse players," which is how Johnette Howard of Newsday put it in a March 31, 2006, column.
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