Part two- Me, Too.
This explosion of #MeToo on social media has excited me, but also shook me. The amount of women speaking up, whether it just by saying “me, too” or sharing their story, is appalling. Of course, it has got me thinking. About a lot. About my own Me, Too stories. About those who are still afraid to speak out — and rightfully so. It has been weighing on me all day yesterday and until now.
Last year, I took an Effective Speaking course at a community college. I dreaded taking it. I hate speaking in front of people. I have a pretty strong somatic reaction to the idea of public speaking. But, I digress. For, I believe, our third speech, I gave a persuasive speech on the Perpetuation of Rape Culture. With Me, Too circulating social media, I’ve decided to publish the “transcript”, if you will, of that speech. It will be exactly that, so if you keep reading, it will have speech form.
Maybe, just maybe, this will perpetuate knowledge rather than passivity. Maybe, just maybe, this will succor those who are too afraid to speak out.
But, I will no longer be silent.
Close your eyes.
Take a moment to visualize someone who means the world to you. Male. Female. Significant other. Great Aunt. Favorite niece. It doesn’t matter. Conjure up their warm smile. Feel it radiating your skin. Feel your love for them coursing through your veins. Feel their laugh reverberating through your bones. You would do anything to protect them. But what if you couldn’t? What if the damage was already done? What if this loved one told you they have been raped?
According to RAINN — Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network — every two minutes, or every 107 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. On average, there are 288,820 victims each year, solely in the United States.
Each and everyone of us engages with social networks. Whether it be the news, tv shows, movies, articles, what have you, we engage in interpersonal communication and when we engage in electronic communication with others, we either perpetuate or diminish rape culture via those conversations.
As a psych major with aspirations of becoming a trauma counselor and as a survivor, I’ve done extensive research on rape culture as I need to learn, grow, and heal, but to also be able to provide the best care to future clients.
During my time together with you, we will discuss how rape culture and the desensitization to material via media is detrimental to society, what has caused it, and the way we can make a change. By the end, you, too, will understand the magnitude of rape culture and will want to be part of the change rather than part of the problem.
Let’s take the time to exhume rape culture and expose it for the horror that it is.
In 2015, Strain, Hockett, and Saucier — authors of Precursors to Rape: Pressing Behaviors and Rape Proclivity, state “The United States has been described as a rape culture, in which rape is condoned, accepted, and perpetuated at an alarming rate…it also refers to normative beliefs, behaviors, and customs increasing the risk of sexual violence.” They then go on to say, “…rape culture is partly a function of function of rape myth acceptance, or sterotypic beliefs about rape that blame the woman who has been raped and exonerate the rapist.” And that, “perhaps one of the most threatening aspects of rape cultures is that its pervasiveness leads to its acceptance”. Its subtle integration into society makes it easily perpetuated.
For example: think about the song that was incredibly popular the summer of 2013, Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. He sings, “I know you want it”, a phrase so many rape survivors heard from their attackers despite saying no, despite fighting back. His words, “the way you grab me, must want to get nasty…” This indicates that flirting equates consensual sex, yet in reality, the two are not mutually exclusive.
I’m sure most of us recall the pandemonium of the Brock Turner case — the Stanford swimmer who was sentenced to a mere six months in jail and two years probation for the rape of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Perksy, the judge on the case, stated that he took Turner at his word of the events. He continued to say that he realizes the devastation, the media attention, and how this case has poisoned lives. However, he does not believe that the anecdote to that poison was incarceration for Turner, but rather more concerned with his future due to the fact that Turner was unarmed, remorseful, and had no prior arrests.
Now that we have more of a grasp on the insidiousness of rape culture, what is it that causes it?
The way we think and talk about rape — and sex in general — is what perpetuates rape culture. More often than not, it is situations of rape being normalized, such as victim blaming or rapes being made into jokes. When we cultivate something of this magnitude into a joke, it depreciates the true and daunting issue at hand, hindering us from fully grasping the severity.
We see this often: athletes saying they raped their opponents, rather than just beating them. We tell women not to get raped rather than telling men not to rape. We assume rape victims are ling despite the Department of Justice’s findings, stating only about 2% of all rape reports are falsified.
All of this permeates through our society. Not only at individual levels, but at institutionalized, structural ways.
In the legal system, suspects are innocent until proven guilty, so why is it that woment who report rape are liars until proven honest? When I disclosed to my employer at the time — three managers; two male, one female — they asked how. If I was drinking. Did I lead him on. Was it really rape. One third of survivors will be asked similar questions, along with questions about clothing. What were you wearing? Where were you walking? How drunk were you?
It isn’t the rapist character or actions being called into play, but the victims.
Gotovac and Towson, authors of Perception of Sexual Assault Victims and Survivors state, “these negative attitudes toward rape victims and survivors are perceived as justified because if she chose the behavior, then she chose the negative consequences.”
Over the past few months, rape culture has been running rampant, plastered in the media, throughout this election season — and it has yet to cease. I’m sure most of you have seen — or at the very least, heard — the clip between Billy Bush and now President-elect Donald Trump bragging about using his fame in an attempt to sleep with whomever and groping them without waiting for their consent. He said, “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women] — i just start kissing hem. IT’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…grab them by the pussy, You can do anything.”
Of course there have been heated quarrels about Trump’s objectifying and demeaning rhetoric simply being awarded as locker room banter. This dismissal and “boys will be boys” mentality is precisely what proliferates rape culture.
Rich and Seffin, in Police Interviews of Sexual Assaults Reporters, state, “other rape myths that people truly believe as rape is rare; women secretly want to be raped. Rape is harmless. Rape is a result of the uncontrollable passion. All rapists are mentally ill or retarded. Only certain kinds of women are raped. And a heterosexual male cannot be raped.”
Makin and Morczek, authors of The Dark Side of Internet Searches: A Macro Level Assessment of Rape Culture claim, “sustained exposure to unambiguously violent forms of sexual content increases male view acceptance of rape myths desensitizes them to sexual violence and shapes more callous attitudes toward female victims…” as seen through the preceding Trump example.
So we now know the problem, we see the causes, how do we change the stigma around rape culture? Ceasing the dissemination of rape culture begins with you.
How does it begin with you?
Quite simply, become conscious of your thoughts and how you speak.
In other words, reevaluate how you refer to women. Calling them sluts, whores, or any other derogatory term villianizes them, maintaining that idea of a woman’s behavior or appearance is indicative of her asking for it. Remember, rape is a lack of consent; slut shaming negates that.
Media spreads rape culture, as we have seen. So rather than you taking it at face value, think critically about what you hear. Think critically about what you see.
Another way, if you have children, or close with younger people, teach them well. Some schools only teach abstinence. Have a conversation with them, explain consent; male or female, everyone needs to be taught what consent is and is not. Be mindful and aware of what they are hearing and viewing. Have conversations seriously and often.
And finally — speak up. Find the courage to take a stand. Find the courage to use your voice to engage in meaningful discussions, but don’t forget to recede back to point one — be mindful, but be conscious of your lexicon. It could be that loved one you thought about several minutes ago.
Over the past few minutes, we’ve learned about the proclivity of rape culture, what causes it, and how we can initiate a change to diminish theses normative behaviors for the better.
As per RAINN, out of every 1000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free. Of those 1000, 344 are reported. In other words, two of three will go unreported. The 344 that are reported, only 64 will result in an arrest and of those arrests, 6 of the perpetrators will be incarcerated.
Stella McCartney once said, “everyone can do simple things to make a difference and every little bit counts.”
Slowing the perpetuation of rape culture certainly isn’t something that will alleviate overnight. But you have the ability to be part of the chagne. It only takes one conversation. It only takes one person to stand up and set the domino effect into motion. It stares with changing your perceptions of victims, or women, of normalzing behaviors.
It starts with you.