Living in a "Rape Culture"

     Ahh, it has been a while! Shortly after the inaugural post, life got a little crazier than normal forcing me to put this blog on the back burner for a while. I have had many good intentions to continue posting but a recent opinion piece written by a dear friend and coworker finally gave me the inspiration to do so.
     Titled Evolution, this piece deals with the culture that we live in; a culture that supports rape. A culture that places the blame for rape and molestation on the victims of sexual assault and abuse. A culture that thinks it’s okay for women and children to be treated as sub-class citizens.
    When writing this piece the author used the current publicly accepted statistic that says 1-in-6 women are  victims of sexual assault. She knows along with many of us that work with victims of sexual assault and abuse that the actual figure is much higher. 1-in-3 is more realistic and when you combine all forms of sexual abuse and assault, from childhood molestation to marital rape, the figure is more like 1-in-2.
     As a culture we can continue on this path or we can get our heads out of the sand and make change happen. Please read with your eyes wide open and feel free to pass on, repost, and share…

     A process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development, as in social or economic structure or institutions.  
     Humans have mastered the art of evolution.  As Americans we consider ourselves more evolved than the rest of the world.  Even in these troubled times we have a powerful economy, the biggest army, the most powerful democracy, and we are the undisputed king of media. America is the world’s most powerful country.  We are tech savvy, forward thinkers, humanitarians of the world, who *POP* (that’s the sound of your American bubble of oblivion bursting) live in a rape culture. 
     Many have heard the term before.  Some may find it offensive while others doubt its existence, but I think statistics prove that it’s real.  Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in her lifetime.  76% (90% if you are a child) of these victims will know their assailant.  Our wives, mothers, sisters and daughters are being sexually assaulted by people they know, love, and trust.  A rape culture would have us believe that most reports of rape and almost all reports of child molestation are false.  The statistics on false reporting are between 1 and 2%.  In reality, only 20% of sexual assaults are reported at all.  Victims live in fear and shame of their abuse.  Perpetrators rely on this and it’s worked wonderfully for them for centuries.  A rape culture, in its attitudes and actions, support and empower the rapist.
    A rape culture believes that “no” doesn’t really mean “no”, it means that a woman just wants to be romanced, that it’s time to turn on the charm, to push, to beg, buy her another drink, to convince and persuade, to bully and wear her down until she stops saying no. In a rape culture, men who have this ability are given credit as being a lady’s man or Casanova because a rape culture believes that girlfriends and wives do not have the right to reject her partner sexually.  Most Americans do not know that marital rape is a crime, and if they do, they do not believe that it can exist.  “What’s the big deal if he had sex with you, he’s your husband.”  Having sex against someone’s will is not sex, it’s rape.
     We get angry at victims for not protecting themselves.  She should have known better than to walk to her car alone.  Why did she invite him into her home?  Her skirt was too short.  For us to believe that a woman is innocent in her victimization she would have to be a homely virgin wearing a turtleneck who got lost in a dark alley on the wrong side of town.
     Not even Hollywood is liberal enough to escape the rape culture mentality.  Whoopi Goldberg came to the defense of Roman Polanski who drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13 year girl in 1977, by saying “well it wasn’t really rape-rape”.  What is “rape-rape”?  If a 13 year old girl being drugged and suffering vaginal and anal penetration isn’t rape, what is the definition?  I wanted to ask Whoopi but she’s not taking my calls.  It’s too bad because, despite the movie “Jumping Jack Flash”, I really liked Whoopi Goldberg.  I’m sorry, but that brand of ignorance is a deal breaker for me.
     Do you remember the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal from 2007?  He was sent to federal prison, and placed on indefinite suspension from the NFL. As a guest on a sports talk show, Paul Zeise a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette stated, “It’s really a sad day in this country when somehow … Michael Vick would have been better off raping a woman if you look at the outcry of what happened. Had he done that, he probably would have been suspended for four games and he’d be back on the field.”   The comment resulted in Zeise getting fired from his position at the Gazette.  They didn’t feel the statement was politically correct and they worried that he may have offended people.  It’s true, I’m horribly offended. Not because of what he said, but because the truth in what he said is so sadly ridiculous.  Truer words have never been spoken. Can I get an “amen” from Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger? 
     In a rape culture, kind well meaning men who would never victimize a woman or a child, stand in silence when they witness domestic violence or sexual harassment.  They’re conditioned to believe that it’s none of their business or they don’t want to appear oversensitive to their peers.   
     It’s also women who won’t stick up for other women, who laugh at jokes that make them uncomfortable because they don’t want to seem uptight or worst of all, be called a feminist lesbian.  For the record, I’ve been called both and have lived through it.
     A rape culture believes in equality for some but not all.  It might be okay for women to be equal but it’s not okay for gay, lesbian, or transgender people.  A rape culture does not support truthful sex education in our schools or access to affordable contraception and a rape culture does not support a woman’s right to chose.
     Our American rape culture is so pervasive that we are hardly able to identify when it occurs. How can we possibly tolerate living in a world that is steeped in inequity and oppression?  It is real and it’s played out in our lives politically, economically, and socially, every minute, every hour, of every day.   If many examples seem innocuous and perhaps alone, they are, but added to everything we are exposed to on a daily basis, it’s an example of the sum being greater than its parts.  All too often we accept the unacceptable because “that’s just the way it is”.  Both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life.  Sexual violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained.  What we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change. 



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