10 Jun Are We Living in a Rape Culture?
by Christie Masters
The understandable and warranted outrage against a California judge who recently gave a rapist a lenient six month sentence has brought the terminology “Rape Culture” to the headlines of news articles. There has been a public outcry and a petition circulating to have Judge Aaron Persky removed from the bench for his leniency and sympathy toward Brock Turner, a Stanford University student, who was caught in the act of sexually assaulting a young woman behind a dumpster.[i] She was unconscious, with a blood alcohol level of three times the legal limit.
Rape Culture is generally thought of as a feminist theory, and described as “a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.”[ii] To be clear, our society does not condone or outwardly advocate sexual assault as an acceptable act. But some would argue that the terminology describes how our society collectively responds to rapists and their victims by joking about rape, minimalizing the need for consent, music lyrics like “you know you want it” and violent pornography. Though most “ism’s”, including feminism, use rhetoric that is often too extreme, we can see a disturbing trend toward a culture that trivializes sexual violence. There is something we can all do to begin reversing this trend:
Stop Blaming the Victim: In a heartbreaking blog article, a rape victim wrote that often those who have been assaulted are secretly or openly blamed for the act because of the clothes they were wearing, or for partying and getting drunk. “She was asking for it” is a terrible twist on who is actually responsible. This kind of thinking offers an excuse for a despicable crime. If a woman is drunk she is not in a condition to give consent, and provocative clothing does not equal consent.
Now this is difficult issue for some- do we teach our daughters to be modest? Do we teach them to be wise in where they go and why getting drunk puts them in danger? Of course. But a rapist should not get sympathy or leniency for violating and harming another human being because of what they were wearing or for being inebriated. There is no excuse for rape.
Demand Appropriate Consequences: In the case of Brock Turner, the judge was concerned that an extended jail sentence would have a negative effect on him. The average sentence given to a rapist is 11 years in prison, and this is often cut short by parole. The six month sentence is shocking, and it should be. The latest article on this controversy has revealed that several jurors are refusing to serve Judge Persky because of his decision.[iii] Demanding justice for the young woman in this case, and any person who is a victim of rape, keeps us from realizing a “Rape Culture.” Appropriate consequences send the message that these crimes will not be tolerated by society.
Encourage Victims to Seek Justice: In the blog article mentioned above, the author shared that many rape victims, including her, do not tell anyone what happened to them. They keep silent, and their attacker gets away. There are so many deeply personal reasons for silence. Shame, guilt, fear, and helplessness are just a few of the emotions that debilitate a victim’s response. We can help them by offering loving support, removing stigmas and blame for victims and validating their need for justice. Two out of three rapes go unreported, and the majority of rape victims know their attacker.[iv] The dignity of a human life needs to be expressed in the most loving way we can. The life, privacy and virtue of our sons and daughters needs to be expressed as something to be protected, and if a terrible assault occurs, it is important to hold the perpetrator responsible. We must have a loving response to those that have suffered. These victims need to have hope, and often that first emerges with a sense that justice will prevail.
The greatness of a culture and society can be seen in many things- in what we teach our children, how we protect liberty, the importance of the life and dignity of each person, and certainly the pursuit of justice. Victims of rape need to know that there is justice for them, that it is important to seek it, and important to seek it for others.