Richmond should address underlying causes of rape

November 11, 2009

Imagine for a moment you have a penis.

What would it be like?

My first thought is uncomfortable, but that’s because I’m pro-va jay jay. But besides having sex organs on the outside, what does a penis bring to a person? Is this question hard, no pun intended, to answer if you’re reading this sans vagina?

My answer is that a penis equals power. This equation must have missed my statistics flash cards.

Of course, there are other human characteristics which denote power as well, but those who are endowed with the penis have an advantage in the power struggle.

Why have I used the word penis five times already? Lately I’ve started to understand and recognize this power more than before.

Throughout my undergraduate career I learned how to see the world through many different lenses. The one lens I can’t seem to shake is the feminist one. Through this lens I’ve come to understand the penis equals power equation is called Patriarchy.

Before I begin regurgitating information from my introduction to women’s studies class, I want to discuss an event which occurred recently that has preoccupied my facebook statuses.

About a month ago, a 15-year-old student was gang raped by at least seven boys\men – while people watched – at Richmond High School after a school dance.

I’ve followed the news surrounding this event for three reasons: I was born and raised in Richmond, I’m a feminist and I’m a graduate student in the public policy program who can’t help but think of how to remedy the problem with a policy.

The news surrounding this event has focused on the negative opinion people across our state and nation have about the Richmond community, arresting alleged rapists and making the campus safer for students.

Of these three issues I’ve focused on the last. I could care less what people say about Richmond. Yes, it is my hometown but considering the level of horrible this event is on, a person calling my city barbaric is the least of my concerns. And I want all of these alleged criminals arrested, but punishment doesn’t equal prevention. Unless we’re cutting off their power tools, I’m not interested.

So, how is the school proposing to make its campus safer?

The brilliant idea they’ve come up with is to install lights. The place where the crime was occurred was dark. Naturally the solution is lights and lots of them. And maybe even some video cameras here and there.


I highly doubt these boys\men raped this girl only because it was dark. In that case let’s pair mace and rape whistles with street lamps to prevent rape from happening anywhere.

How about teaching “Don’t Rape Girls.” Is that so profound an idea that no one has come up with it except a grad student at a women’s college?

The underlying problem that I don’t think people are seeing, or want to see, is our culture and its objectification of women. Boys\men do it and us girls\women do it to ourselves.

My assumption is this girl became, or was always considered, an object to these boys\men when they robbed, beat and continuously raped her. She wasn’t a person.

If the problem is how our society views women, then how do we fix that?

There’s no School House Rock to teach us. Believe me, I googled it and only learned about a bill becoming a law.

I’m wondering why Richmond High School isn’t creating a program that teaches feminist rhetoric and theory. Of course they couldn’t use those exact words without being criticized for teaching bra burning and lesbianism, but wouldn’t a program teaching respect and value for women be more productive than lighting up the darkness?

Enlightening up the darkness is what needs to be done. As corny as that sounds, it’s true.

Women are half the population, half of the workforce and receive half the respect. Where’s the outrage? I think its time for the women of Mills who marinate in feminism all day to stand up and do something.

This fifteen-year old rape survivor deserves more than some bright halogen lights – even if they are the energy saving kind.

Richmond should address underlying causes of rape was published on November 11, 2009 in Opinions

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  • Steve

    The decline of a society does not occur overnight. Just like the deterioration of education does not occur overnight. Its a slow and progressive path that leads to such, disgusting events. And as you noted, the only thing that most news outlets focus on is the reactionary solution (reductionism is pretty much how the government and news media operates at this point… most likely a related problem).

    I my opinion, which has no research to back it up, just observation. People have become selfish and it has become acceptable to act as such. This means that parents are allowed to be selfish, leaving their kids to be raised by the media. A huge source for the objectification of women. But this has been the course for at least two generations. People do not know what is the appropriate reaction for any visual input, unless the TV has told them what that reaction is. There is no vilification of people who act without moral judgment, infact in some instances it is praised (bread and circuses?).

    The answer to all these problems is not legislation, its proactive attention to todays youth by the family. Unfortunately i am only used to a nuclear family. How does this work for those who have a single parent who has to work two shifts? In my opinion this scenario would become less likely if we can repair the moral fibers of the population, but we have to get to that point first, a bit of a cyclic problem.

    before you jump the gun, I am an atheist. I cannot seem to come up with a better phrase than moral fiber. My thoughts for the past few years have lead me to believe we should teach Kant/moral philosophy to elementary school kids (yonger is better in this case as athoritative voices are more effective till they sort it out themselves). Hmm…. At this point my thoughts are not as concise as i thought they were prior to writing this.

    I discovered this news story today…

  • Giovanna

    agreed! I have a blog and have been following this story closely as well. What is installing a few lights really going to do? I think its time our society realizes its a systematic problem that calls for a huge fix.

  • Beep

    Something has gone wrong. We have 45,000 people in our country dying every year due to lack of access to health insurance, and yet there are tea parties where people gather and insist that anyone who needs public assistance is a moral criminal by definition. We have people standing by watching horrific crimes, joining in, recording them for YouTube… We have a hatred of the overweight so intense that the stress on people who are overweight causes them to make more of the hormone cortisol which contributes to–weight gain. We are mean. We are an angry, petulant, whiny, selfish jungle of people who cannot fathom why our standard of living is going down instead of up (albeit a lot are spoiled rotten still, as I type this on a computer on a comfy bed while someone in Africa or Los Angeles cant feed their baby) or why we are more irritable with the planet continuing to add more and more people to it or why altering the planet to make it inhospitable to us because we are unwilling to change an economic system we artificially created for ourselves is pretty dumb when you dont have an extra habitable planet to spare. Once Ronald Reagan opened his mouth about the welfare queen driving a Cadillac with YOUR TAX MONEY! selfishness was IN. Even if it was…or maybe especially if it was…based on just about anything but facts. I agree that women are not being treated as well as men, the overweight are not being treated as well as the thin, the short are not being treated as well as the tall, the poor are not being treated as well as the rich, and wed all better start caring a lot more about each other and getting along better or we are all going down together.

    We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately. — Ben Franklin

  • rach

    I couldnt agree more, I am trying to start a womens group in NYC to help women with these struggles. Read below. I dont know how but we really lost our voice, and I almost feel like we are going back in time.

    In this time of economic uncertainty combined with living in a patriartical society, I have felt that women as a whole have lost their voice. I think we have become unsure of who we truly are as we struggle to meet societal norms and the economic demands that are currently being placed on us by either ourselves, the media, or family and friends. I feel as women we are trying so hard to meet societal norms of what a woman should be that we have lost sight of our true individual identities and voices.
    When I am at work, I feel in some ways I have lost my feminine strength as I struggle to compete to keep up with men. I have been told that to get ahead as a woman in a man’s world is to learn how to work like men do. I want to work like I do, as an intelligent woman.
    I see how many of my smart and beautiful friends feel that because they do not have a man in their life or if their relationship is not going well, they feel incomplete. So we push to find something else to complete us, instead of feeling whole on our own. Why do we not feel whole first and then look to complement what we already have.
    And the Media doesn’t help. Buy this cream, eat that food. You should look like this woman. We are trying so hard to stay young and thin instead of allowing ourselves to be happy with who we are.
    I see this as I look around and see how we are all trying to have it all. We want the career, the marriage, and the children and somehow we forgot who we are and what we truly need to be happy instead of what society has made us believe we need.

  • tammi

    I have never been scared of a man or men. My mother always told me that if a man hits you, you turn right around and hit him right back. She also said that God gave man external genitalia for a reason, and that reason is: You do not piss off a woman.
    I have been in situations, where I could have possibly been raped, (I never have been.) but I believe that because I have confidence in myself and the belief that You do not piss off a woman. Already ingrained into myself by my mother. That is what has kept me safe. And my daughter knows this too. I as a woman, I know that men are not superior too me, but are equal too me.

  • J.B. Roberts

    I too have followed this crime closely in the news. Heres my question: why are so many commentators blaming society at large? It seems to me that a group of about thirty mainly Hispanic males either participated in the beating and rape of a 16 year old white sophomore, or watched and did nothing to stop it for a sickening two-and-a-half hours. If we are going to indict the culture, the culture we need to be indicting is the macho culture of Mexico, and its predatory attitudes toward women. I had a friend who worked in the US Embassy in Mexico City. She told me the country with the greatest number of human rights violations against American citizens, at the time, was Mexico. It was common, she said, for Mexican authorities to arrest Americans on trumped-up charges, to collect bribes — and to rape the girls. My friend was posted to Mexico in the 1990s, and the authorities in question were often the police themselves seeing an attractive girl, making an arrest, and raping her in the police station! Fast-forward to 2009. A white girl, one of 2% of Richmond High students, is treated as an object. This is eerily similar to the rapes in the Balkan Wars, where sexual violence was part of ethnic intimidation and ethnic cleansing. Does anyone doubt that someone would have come forward earlier to call the police if the girl being raped was Hispanic? But being from a different ethnic group, and an Honors student, and a practicing Christian, this girl was the other and therefore it was okay to abuse her. Read the New York Times article from a few days ago about how some students at Richmond High, interviewed last week, changed their minda and lost sympathy for the victim when they learned who she was. So, we need to think about the policy response in terms of: 1) what is the Hispanic subculture that has developed in California and why does it lead to gang culture? 2) does the failure of recent Hispanic immigrants to assimilate lead to ethnic violence? and 3) does America want a balkanized society where warring ethnic groups have no sympathy for others? Finally, we need to realize that racism runs both ways, and address that openly. Before you jump on me for being unfair to Hispanics, let me say Im a fan of Latin culture. I was born in Panama, lived in Spain, speak Spanish fluently, and have worked and traveled widely in Mexico, Central America, and South America. It is for that very reason that I can say Mexican culture is not as enlightened about the status of women as American culture. The Richmond High victim was beaten down, hummiliated, disgraced (in Latin cultural terms) and treated like an animal to assert the group dominance of Hispanics over Anglos at Richmond High. This was ethnic violence just like in Bosnia or Croatia during the Balkans Wars.

  • mammal

    And thats the problem… How do we explain their actions? How do we explain brutal, extended, gang-rape? Even within the context of patriarchy — the everyday ocean of male dominance in which we all swim — these particular acts are still difficult to understand.

    Something very different is occurring — socially, culturally, psychologically — when men in a group feel that they can behave like this.

    Even within a traditional patriarchal framework, this doesnt make sense, imo. I cant quite put my finger on it, but consider that even with the levels of rape within our society, this incident is still radically outside the norm. Think about it: its not just radical feminists who are outraged by this. I think its safe to say that there are no shortage of conservative traditional men — even among those who would tell you that claims of rape are often fabricated — who are shocked and horrified by this, and who wouldnt hesitate to pull the switch on these guys. (Which doesnt mean thats a solution either, but is meant merely to again argue that something else has occurred here.)

    Which is why I dont think a Dont Rape Girls class wouldve made a difference in this case. (Though Id be glad to see such classes, certainly!).

    I dont want to sound like some retributive reactionary, but in this case it does seem as though the perpetrators have, in some sense, lost their humanity. For me, their actions cant be labelled as merely a mistake. Not even a tragic one. Instead, it shows us who they are, at the core, as individuals: broken, dangerous, violent sociopaths.

  • Maggie Banken

    I agree Mammal! IMO there is no cultural reason why a bunch of Latinos raped a White girl. They raped her because they wanted to. Not to prove they are of a superior race, not because it is part of they’re culture. Don’t undermine these boys intelligence. They knew full well what they were doing, they knew it was wrong, they know why they did it. The same thing happens in groups of all white people.

    I really don’t think that race had nothing to do with it. It was just another example of a group of men who gang raped a Women in order to show regular old male dominance.

    Its sick, and I’m irritated that anyone would try to use culture as an excuse. None of the Latinos I know would do this. They are good guys. Those guys, are rapists.

  • Ava Thompson

    This is partly due to gang culture. Girls who join gangs are often “sexed in” as an initiation ritual. Gross. Totally gross. But for kids exposed to gang culture, it becomes something normal that you can take in stride. Kids have become desensitized. Kids need re-education about questioning
    authority — this time, the authority of peers and peer leaders. They need re-education about the pack mentality, which is what gangs are all about. And they need re-education about the woman-hating values of gang culture. Certainly the boys and men involved in this crime are as guilty as sin and should be prosecuted to the extent of the law. But the culture is guilty, too.