Growing up, I remember being taught to fear “the other” men: the stranger, the crazy bum on the street, the random alcoholic, the violent uncontrollable man who might rape me. But what are the statistics on rape?
So why are us women taught to fear men we don’t know when the danger is men we do know and almost half of women are raped by someone they are either friends or acquaintances with?
The language used in my previous piece: “To Her Rapist” is telling as to why people think of rape and rapists as violence against someone from the ‘other.’ I’ve talked about rape culture before, but not necessarily when it applies to rape and a rape victim. Words and phrases that I used that hint to issues with rape culture when a victim realizes what they have gone through is sexual assault: “you were very gentlemanly,” “along with my innocence,” as a victim: “I’m disgusting.”
Let’s start with gentlemanly. The basic understanding here is that men are either gentlemen or rapists– which as a woman I can confirm– is what we are taught. Women are taught to fear men they do not know: the men who you don’t know what they are like as people. The men you know are seen as gentlemen, and the ones you do not know are presumed rapists. Maybe it is not quite that drastic, but to an extent it is true. Women fear the man walking behind them at night they don’t know. Women fear an empty, dark parking lot at night. Women fear walking alone late at night. Women cross the street when there is a group of men walking towards them. Why do women do this? Because the men we do not know could harm us. However, this is, of course, not the case. Men you know are just as capable of hurting you, as are all human beings. It is usually your best friend who knows where to stick it so it hurts. All people are capable of harm, so to address the issue of rape and rape culture, we must start teaching about the prevalence of rape, especially between friends and acquaintances, in schools. The more people become aware of it, the less acceptable acquaintance rape will become. It is obviously not a good thing that women are raped by family members, friends, acquaintances, and people they know, but pretending it does not happen and teaching our daughters to fear men they do not know is only counterproductive.
The next part of my last post I want to address is:
“When she arrives she finds that her luggage did not arrive with her, and she has to take the bus from the airport back to main town, and then walk back home. This small inconvenience sets her off: it hits her. ‘My luggage is gone, along with my innocence. I’m disgusting, he has disgraced me.'”
What do women (and men) who are victims of rape experience? Shame. Shame upon shame. The first things a rape victim might experience:
And now come the long-term effects: how will this one experience (or multiple experiences) shape the victim’s life?
The kinds of questions that victims will often be asked: What were you wearing? Were you drunk or on drugs? Did you go back to his place? Who was he, do you know him? Can you identify him? But were you flirting? How could you let yourself in that situation? How could you let yourself get in that situation more than once?
Victim blaming– you’ve heard of it before. What’s the real problem? The rapist. Society. Rape culture.
So what’s to be done?
As I’ve said, education. Programs that make people aware of what the problems are with rape culture and its effects on victims. Most importantly, it all starts with you. Yes, YOU: whoever is reading this.
Here are 8 simple rules to change the way people look at rape and to fight rape culture:
- Revisit your definition or rape.
- Reevaluate how you talk about women.
- Understand that sexuality is up to individuals.
- Put yourself in a victim’s shoes (if you aren’t a victim). If you are a victim, you can try telling your story, even if it is to one person. Challenge questions like “what were you wearing?” Don’t let the people who are ignorant pull you down.
- Consider how you view those accused of rape.
- If you raise children, teach them well.
- Think critically about what you see in pop culture and the media.
- SPEAK UP.
If you’re reading this and need help call 800-656-HOPE (4673). You will be connected to a staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your local area. This hotline is affiliated with RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) and is completely confidential and judgement-free. If you want to visit their website: https://rainn.org/
Love and support is all we really need. Be kind, my friends.