By Felicia De La Isla |Coyote Contributor|
Rape culture has been a part of our society for so long that it can be hard to recognize, but that does not mean it does not exist.
“Rape culture is a culture in which dominant cultural ideologies, media images, social practices, and societal institutions support and condone sexual abuse by normalizing, trivializing and eroticizing…violence…and blaming victims for their own abuse,” according to senior lecturer and chief undergraduate advisor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Lynn Phillips.
Phillips is also the author of Flirting with Danger Young Women’s Reflections on Sexuality and Domination (2000) which is one product of her ongoing study of college students perspective regarding relationships and sexuality and the connection to sexual assault.
The dismissiveness towards sexual assault prevention perpetuates rape culture by not actively working against it.
We, as a society, in no way celebrate rape, but we ignore the issues that have created the rape culture that we live in today.
While the definition is specific to men and women, it must be recognized that rape culture also impacts the lives of trans and gender non-conforming people.
Rape culture is defined by a number of everyday habits and occurrences in the lives of people everywhere.
The most common form of rape culture presents itself is in the way boys and girls are taught to interact with each other, rooted in social conditioning.
When little girls are told, “boys are mean to you when they like you,” it implies that male aggression towards females is normal, and that aggression is how boys and men communicate their emotions.
The idea that mistreatment is a sign of affection allows warning signs of abusive relationships to be misconstrued as passionate love in adulthood.
When prom season hits social media, a common trope is a father holding a gun while posing with their daughter and her male date.
The message and or even joke, being that fathers must protect their daughters from boys since “boys only want one thing,” that one thing being sex.
But it’s not the daughter’s personal well being that is being protected, it’s her sexuality.
The assumption that males prey on females for sex also invalidates male victims of sexual assault, and depicts women as sexual objects by portraying their sexuality as something that can be claimed or protected, and not their own.
Expectations like these are common in society and paints men as being sexually aggressive towards women as just the way things are– that is rape culture.
The night of March 4 2015 there was an attempted sexual assault in the north stairwell of Pfau Library.
March 8 2015, just four days later, there was an attempted kidnapping in front of Pfau Library.
These attacks sparked a series of emails urging students to take extra safety measures such as using a buddy system and attending the various discussions groups about campus safety and sexual assault, which the school provided along with listing student rights concerning safety on campus and sexual misconduct.
Although students have been given valuable resources to prevent being attacked, and luckily victims escaped the attacks, and it is still unknown whether or not the perpetrator has been caught.
The rest of spring quarter there was a heightened awareness of safety from predators.
Students took extra care to not become the next victim. Rape culture was at it’s most visible.
On Thursday May 12, University Police sent a Timely Warning alerting us to an incident from the previous Monday, May 9.
According to the report, a woman was raped in a leasing office of an apartment complex on the 2400 block of Kendall drive and the predator is still at large.
There has been little to no reaction on campus concerning this because we are desensitized to incidents of sexual assault on or near campus.
We have the safety tips of how not avoid becoming a victim memorized and we go on with our lives.
We do not celebrate the rapist but we do the best we can not be their next victim because that’s all we can do.
Our focus should be on stopping rape from happening, not placing the responsibility to not be raped on potential victims.
“According to Crime Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)…statistics…show that rape has been declining at a rate of 22 percent between the years of 2004 and 2013” argues against the existence of rape culture, numbers overall are not the most reliable source.
First reason being that sexual assault is one of the most under reported types of crime.
The U.S. Statistics from FBI concerning rape are incomplete as the FBI compiles information from law enforcement agencies that submit data to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report(UCR).
The UCR is created by a system called National Incident-Based Reporting that gathers data based on every single occurrence of a specific crime.
As of 2014 only 15 states submit crime data using this system. In 2014 the Association of American Universities conducted a Campus Survey on Sexual Assault finding that only 11 percent of students who participated had experienced sexual assault.
However AAU only surveyed 27 universities across the United States. According to the National Center for Education there are 2,968 universities in the U.S.
How can crime data from only 15 states and findings from a survey of 27 universities accurately represent the prevalence of sexual assault countrywide? Is it at all possible to accurately measure the prevalence of rape culture?
We can see the prevalence of rape culture in some of the seemingly harmless gender stereotypes and the way we react, or do not react, to incidents of sexual assault in our community.
We should use these situations to discuss what needs to be done to dismantle rape culture entirely, but first we need to realize rape culture does exist.