The Silence of Rape Culture
Our society is one that teaches the public how to avoid getting raped instead of teaching people not to rape. Our society emphasizes that one shouldn’t dress provocatively. One should be wary of the people around them. One should stop inviting so much attention. Indeed, it is deeply embedded in our culture that rape is the victim's fault. That the victim should be ashamed. The victim should stay silent. Our society tries to find fault in the victim instead of the aggressor, a clear instance of the rape culture prevalent in our society.
Rape culture is a term used to define an environment in which sexual assault and rape are trivialized due to its pervasive nature. This term was originally introduced to the public in the 1970s, by second-wave feminists. Second-wave feminism was a two-decade period of advocacy that addressed sexuality, domestic violence, reproductive rights, and rape. The goal of the second-wave feminists when they coined the term “rape culture” was to raise awareness on the prevalence and perversity of rape. Before this term was coined, rape was seen as something that rarely occurred and was never brought up. It wasn’t a conversational topic. Our culture emphasized silence because it was seen as the victim’s fault. Finally bringing up that rape was a widespread occurrence, and even culture was seen as extremely controversial. However, critics asserted that rape culture implies that the fault lies within a society that tolerates rape, rather than blaming the rapist. This is true to an extent; A society that doesn’t appropriately punish a rapist is just as much at fault as the rapist.
As a result of the growing awareness of the fact that rape and sexual assault are common occurrences, people began to view rape as a violent crime rather than a crime of sex. Rape shifted from pleasurable sex to misogynistic intimidation that allowed men to assert their dominance and reinforce the already sexist gender norms. However, it was movements such as SlutWalk and Me Too that allowed for the public to truly understand the extent of rape culture.
SlutWalk was a movement that began after a police officer in Toronto, Canada, suggested that if women wished to avoid being sexually assaulted or raped then “women should avoid dressing like sluts.” As a result, this movement specifically called for an end to victim-blaming and slut-shaming. They emphasized that rape or sexual assault cannot be excused by a woman’s appearance. The aggressor is to blame, not the women in provocative clothing. Provocative clothing is not consent. His implication of clothing playing a key part in consent outraged women everywhere. Women protested the officer's statement by dressing in what was characterized as “slutty.” They wore revealing, provocative clothes and protested in the form of a march. Additionally, in several rallies, women addressed their identities as survivors and came to terms with the fact that it is not their fault, and will never be their fault. This was a key moment, as it finally allowed for the realization that the fault lies within the aggressor, and the victim’s survival should never be silenced. The key to ending rape culture begins with outraged voices, never silence. It doesn’t matter if they were dressed provocatively, or drunk, or appeared to be “asking for it.” The fault will always lie with the rapist, and a society that allows for even an ounce of blame on the victim enforces rape culture.
Another movement that brought further awareness to rape culture was the Me Too movement. This movement allowed for people to publicize sexual harassment and sexual abuse allegations of sex crimes committed by formative public figures. This movement was originally supposed to empower women by giving them a voice in something they originally had no voice in. However, this movement began to be more than just empowering women and spreading awareness. It began to expose prominent figures. As a result of this movement, over two hundred important men lost their jobs as a result of the sexual allegations, and some even faced criminal charges. One of the men who faced criminal charges was Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein was a co-founder of a famous entertainment company, Miramax, and had won several academy awards. He was a prominent figure in the American film industry, but he was removed from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and dismissed form his company as a result of several sexual assault allegations. In October of 2017, over eighty women used the Me Too movement hashtags to expose Weinstein and the sexual violence he inflicted. The shock that a figure as prominent as Weinstein could be capable of such an act empowered women to expose other figures. Their success in charging and jailing Weinstein rejuvenized the Me Too movement and brought about unprecedented popularity that led to the uncovering of other rape and sexual assault cases concerning popular and prominent figures.
These movements played an immense part in bringing awareness to the fact that rape culture exists. However, this culture has yet to be eliminated. Rape culture is a result of the acceptance of rape. Due to the fact that rape is an everyday occurrence, people lose motivation to address this problem. Their “solutions” never address the problem at hand. They focus on fixing minor details, such as what the victim was doing or wearing that led to the rape or assault. They never directly attempt to fix the problem: the rapist. Societal norms have dictated that the victims remain silent, for they are at fault. It was their clothing, their attitude, their carelessness, that led to this situation. Rape is never about the violation a person feels, but rather how the aggressor views consent. As a result of this culture in which consent is never defined, a wall of silence is built around victims. This impenetrable wall is rarely broken. And when a victim gains the courage to step forward, to finally break that wall, the aggressor attacks their credibility. The aggressor never wants accountability, so when the silence is broken, they do their best to make sure that nobody listens.
By: Prinaka Drona