Tomorrow I give my final speech for my college speech class. We had to choose a persuasive topic; and I chose ending rape culture as my topic. Below is the written form of the speech I will give to my peers during class tomorrow. It starts with all of us.
Rape culture exists because we don’t believe it does. From tacit acceptance of misogyny in everything from casual conversations with our peers to the media we consume, we accept the degradation of women and posit uncontrollable hyper-sexuality of men as the norm. Recently rape culture has become a hot button topic thanks to the highly publicized trial of two teenagers in Steubenville, Ohio who raped a classmate at a house party.
Many of the public responses were repugnant and spoke volumes toward humanity’s ideas on rape culture.
“I have no sympathy for whores.”
“So you got drunk at a party and two people take advantage of you, that’s not rape, you’re just a loose drunk slut.”
“I would lay my life on it that she (Steubenville victim) was more than willing, almost inviting.”
These quotes are just a few of the public responses to the rape case and trial that occurred earlier this year. At the time of her assault, the victim was unconscious from intoxication and first learned about her rape through images distributed on social media.
Many people including news media outlets placed much of the blame on the victim; citing that she “should have known better”. Jan Sherrill, assistant dean of students at George Washington University stated in a recent article in regard to a national study done about college drinking that he tells his students “Get drunk, and you run the risk of being raped.”
USlegal.com defines victim blaming as “a devaluing act where the victim of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment is held as wholly or partially responsible for the wrongful conduct committed upon them.” It goes on to state that “victim blaming can appear in the form of negative social reactions from the legal, medical, and mental health professionals, as well as from media and immediate family members and other acquaintances. Traditionally, victim blaming has emerged as racist and sexist forms. The reason for victim blaming can be attributed to the misconceptions about victims, perpetrators, and the nature of the violent acts.
Nearly 30 years prior to the highly publicized Steubenville case, there was another. A young woman was gang raped by 4 men at a Massachusetts bar. Alternet.org states “Reporters covering the case openly struggled with the responsible reporting issues, such as whether or not to name the victim and how to give context to victim blaming quotes from community members.” The victim of the Massachusetts case was told in court that she would have to “prove her innocence”. “She was as much on trial as the defendants.” An advocate told the Associated Press, as the victim was aggressively cross examined and grilled about her drinking.
In both cases, the public was shocked by the amount of bystanders that joined in, cheered on, or did nothing to stop the attacks. A recent report from ABC’s 20/20 stated “ The juvenile trial… is every parent’s nightmare and a cautionary tale for teenagers living in today’s digital world.” The question that many people had was “Is it a nightmare that there was a trial, or that someone was raped?”
Many people are concerned that too many other’s either think that rape is not wrong or that they have such a distorted view of rape that they cannot recognize it when it occurs right in front of them. Merriam-Webster’s definition of rape is “unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent.” According to Black’s Law Dictionary, consent is “a voluntary agreement to another’s proposition and/or to voluntarily agree to an act of proposal of another; which may range from contracts to sexual relations. This implies that consent was given in good faith, not under duress and that all parties are of sound mind to grant consent.
Now is the time to change these ideals and redefine rape culture. Currently the questions being asked are about the victim’s sobriety, clothing, and sexuality. The public and the media need to evaluate and address what the perpetrators are told about rape and “being a man”. Questions like “What made him think this is acceptable?” instead of “What was she doing/wearing/saying when she was raped?” This is not to implicate that men are inherently violent or that masculinity is the root cause of all evil. For centuries men and women have been raised to believe in male dominance and the ideal to simply take what you want attitude.
Become aware of enthusiastic consent; meaning that you’re firm in saying no and enthusiastic when saying yes. This also means being aware of when someone is unable to consent or deny an act of sex or any other compromising act due to intoxication or any other reason that renders them incapable of consent. Take the time to find out what you want and be vocal about those desires with yourself, your family and your friends. Don’t make decisions that are against your beliefs and morals based on the decision and influence of your peers or the media. Be aware that the media is a product. Know when media is purposely objectifying women and when it is wrong. Not just morally but also legally. Women are often stereotyped and degraded in mainstream media and this impacts all women and their lived experiences.
Organizations such as RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) and Slut Walk have a number of rallies throughout the year; that discuss rape, rape culture and victim blaming. The slut walk of Minneapolis’ mission statement begins with this disclaimer “In order to form a more perfect society for all, support justice, ensure the belief of survivors of rape and sexual assault (and advocate for those who didn’t), work to end stereotypical thinking, promote active consent, and secure the safety of all people, to organize a protest against rape culture.
It is time to reclaim ourselves as women, and to defend all women. The world needs to change from a “don’t get raped” to a “don’t rape” mentality. Encourage each other to think about rape culture and how it harms our communities. Become aware that rape can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Become an advocate for those who are most vulnerable to rape and sexual assault as well as those who are uncomfortable seeking help.