*Trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault and victim-blaming.
“She’s such a slut, I’m not surprised that happened to her.” “She had it coming.” “It probably happened because she is always wearing such revealing clothing.” “Boys will be boys.” “You know you want it…” “He had such a promising future, but she ruined it.”
For many people, these statements are a common part of everyday life and conversations related to rape. When it comes to rape, our culture leans heavily towards victim-blaming. When someone is assaulted, all facets of the situation and the victim’s life are examined: what they were wearing, whether they forcibly said “no” during the attack, what their sexual past was like, whether they were in a relationship with the assailant, etc.
It is rare to talk about the perpetrator’s life and ask the hard-hitting questions: have they attacked others? Statistically, yes: the average repeat rapist usually claims about 5.8 victims. Do the rapists have a history of violence or oppressive behavior? Typically yes: a survey of 120 male rapists found that the group as a whole was responsible for 1,225 separate acts of interpersonal violence. Did they realize what they did was wrong and did they stop as soon as the victim showed signs of discomfort or anxiety?
Rape is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused.
Why do we as a society encourage this behavior? Maybe it is because of pop culture references that glorify rape and sexual assault. For instance, pop singer Robin Thicke’s song, “Blurred Lines,” which has been criticized repeatedly for having a clear agenda of rape encouragement yet is still played on most popular radio stations and is readily available to people of all ages through YouTube and other online streaming platforms. Perhaps it is because of popular phrases such as “rape face,” or the glorification of violent sex, or rape fantasies in pornographic films contributing to our “blame the victim” mentality. Or it is likely perpetuated by colleges that pride themselves on giving students a holistic liberal arts education such as Amherst that are contributing to our victim blaming society in the way they had handled assaults on campus and warned students about potentially risky situations.
Why are victims held responsible for not taking the ‘right precautions’ to prevent themselves from being assaulted instead of potential perpetrators being educated on how not to rape? Sure, technological developments such as anti-rape condoms and rape prevention undergarments are great and empowering tools women can use to help prevent rape. But even these products are perpetuating a confusing message: rape is inevitable, so here are some physical barriers you can put up to help decrease the likelihood you will be raped!
Our social actions towards rape are incredibly detrimental; sexual assault is one of the largest underreported crimes with an average of 60% of assaults going unreported. When rapes are reported, the victim can face incredible backlash from their surrounding community and society as a whole. Take a recent case in Missouri for example. The victim and her family faced so much backlash that her mother was fired from her job, the victim and her siblings were shunned from school, and the victim’s family’s house was burnt down. Instead, the media, from ABC News to Yahoo!, had portrayed the rapists as the real victims who would face the challenging future of being a registered sex offender.
The best way to end rape culture is to stand up against it! Stop your peers from shaming the victim; educate yourself and others on what consensual sex looks like; encourage victims to report their assailants and press charges.
We are more than capable of changing the upsetting social perceptions of rape. The first step is simply standing up for victims’ rights and questioning our widespread ‘blame the victim’ mentality.
Read Kendall Anderson’s earlier blog post: BLOG | Body Positivity: Fashion’s Poor Taste.
Anderson is the founder and co-leader of Mills Body Positivity Group and a regular contributor for The Campanil‘s health blog section. Check out the Body Positivity Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/555588184475032/.