Sexual assault is a problem that never seems to go away even at an age where women’s rights and feminist movements should help end the social problem. The term “rape culture” can be described as a culture of normalizing sexual violence and, at the same time, blaming the victims for the assaults. Additionally, rape culture may appear to be a myth because many people would not believe that a society could support sexual violence. However, rape culture is real and detrimental to society and a new wave of activism is critically necessary to fight against it.
The existence of a rape culture should no longer be ignored because there are voices loud enough to prove its existence. The ignorance could be said to be caused by the fact that sexual violence remains one of the most underreported statistics (Brake 119). Additionally, a culture of silence among the victims means that the few cases that get reported do not paint a clear picture of the full extent of the problem. The accounts of the victims should give an idea of the ordeals that they face and help people understand why most would prefer not to report. For example, depending on the personalities involved, college students may fear that the institutions would take the side of the accused and no action will be taken. Others may feel that they do not have information or evidence to prove that the rape or other forms of sexual assault took place. Shame and embarrassment, as well as trauma, may also contribute to the underreporting of sexual assault, which illustrates that the current figures are inadequate.
Despite the underreporting, the current figures should be adequate in proving that rape culture exists. For example, a fifth of all women tend to experience sexual assault at some point in their lives and most of them are likely to be female college students (Persson and Dhingra 1; Jozkowski, Manning and Hunt 117). This means that much of the prevention burden falls on the institutions to implement prevention measures, which presents a challenge in distinguishing between sex and rape. In this case, many dates may end with sex, either consented or not. The problem, in this case, is that victims may not report or that the victims will not be taken seriously. College students are young, which makes them particularly vulnerable, especially when they are exploring their sexuality. Other environments face the same challenge, for example, the military. According to Taub, military sexual assaults in 2012 were estimated at above 25,000. Less than 3000 cases were reported, while only less than 1000 of them proceeded to trial. The difference between the actual cases and those proceeding to trial indicates that many victims may feel hopeless and opt not to report.
Consent is a contentious issue that plays a critical role in the emergence and perpetuation of rape culture. College students may have problems interpreting consent cues, which means that some sexual encounters will take place regardless of the unwillingness of a partner (Jozkowski et al. 118). Additionally, reporting some of these cases poses a legal challenge because consent or lack thereof will need to be established before determining whether a sexual encounter comprises an assault. The rape culture persists because of misinterpreted cues and the expectation by the youth that such activities as dates should ultimately lead to sex. The cues could be verbal or nonverbal, which depends on the nature of communication between the parties. It can be argued that verbal cues work better because there can hardly be any misinterpretations. However, nonverbal consent is contentious since it presents a challenge even in legal settings. Agreeing to accompany someone to private settings may be taken as consenting for sex even when a partner is unwilling. This problem illustrates the need to educate the youth on sex matters and prevent many from falling victim to rape culture.
One of the most important aspects of rape culture is the fact that it is normalized by society and places blame on the victims. In this case, the responsibility for the prevention of rape falls on the victims as opposed to modifying the behaviors of perpetrators. For example, rapists may blame women for wearing too revealing clothes, which attracts such responses as women should dress better so as not to attract the rapists. According to Taub, personal responsibility has been interpreted to mean that women should not engage in such acts as drinking alcohol or attending fraternity parties because these behaviors are likely to make them victims. It is important to acknowledge that the entire society should be responsible, including the potential victims. However, placing all the blame on the victims means that the perpetrators will not face justice or public condemnation, which means that they will likely continue engaging in these evil behaviors. The rape culture also perpetuates the unwillingness to report, especially where victims feel that society will not take any meaningful action or that they will be the ones blamed for the ordeal.
Statistics and confessions of the victims indicate not only the existence of rape culture but also the fault of society in failing to combat it. In a fair and just society, no victim should ever feel helpless. Additionally, no victim is supposed to carry the burden of the blame without condemning the perpetrators themselves. The social problems encountered are evidence that society has failed in rectifying it. Luckily, the many confessions from rape victims have helped expand the appreciation of the issues from the public (Brake 122). However, the attention has also attracted counter-narratives of accused perpetrators who have had to face lifelong consequences after rape accusations where they felt like the real victims. Ambiguous and empathetic situations have resulted in many rape incidences appearing to be the result of miscommunication rather than intended rape. There are also cases of women regretting bad sex very later after the encounter, which have often seen many accuse their partners of rape (Brake 122). The need to mention these counter-narratives is that it is necessary to get to the root cause of the problem to avoid causing further victimization.
Many social problems have often been resolved through activism, which means that the rape culture could also be approached this way. An anti-rape culture activist movement could help society realize the true extent of the problem and embrace remedies to help resolve it. Today, activism is made easier by technologies, especially social media, where victims can speak up, share their experiences, and condemn the perpetrators and society for its negative response. According to (Rentschler 65), young feminists have been using social media to fight against the rape culture and to hold the rapists accountable for their actions. Their focus is on changing the way of thinking of society, something that law enforcement, school authorities, and mainstream media have failed to do. As mentioned earlier, consent is a key consideration when determining cases of rape. Therefore, using social media to present evidence that the perpetrators’ actions were intended seems the only way to address any counter-narratives and avoid blaming the victims of rape.
The best achievement for any activism is facilitating a change in society’s beliefs and ways of thinking. Regarding the rape culture, society needs to be made to change its perception that rape cases are the fault of women whose behaviors instigated rape incidences (65). Rentschler offers an excellent example by referring to a 2013 trial involving a 16-year-old girl. A crime blogger gathered Twitter screenshots that served as evidence that the assailants had indeed planned on sexually assaulting the girl. In this case, it can be argued that the evidence will cause the public to rethink their stand on rape culture and start appreciating that rapists are malicious individuals intent on inflicting harm on their patients. Other efforts involve young women using YouTube videos to fight the rape culture (Garcia and Vemuri 26). Social media is proving a critical tool for marginalized groups to speak up and be heard world across the world. Therefore, it is recommended that anti-rape culture activists should utilize social media to make their voices heard and enforce the right reaction towards the rape culture.
Victims and support groups can explain their cases and the incidences to help the public realize the true extent of the problem. However, the most important use of social media is to help educate the young generation regarding the right behaviors involving matters of sex. General awareness is critical because ignorance could be playing a critical role in perpetuating the rape culture. Sex education in schools can be said to have failed to teach college students on good behaviors. It can be argued that if all people were educated on how to interpret verbal and nonverbal consent cues, then the cases of assault resulting from miscommunication could be eliminated. Additionally, women should be taught how to send the right messages to prevent their cues from being misinterpreted. Social media is the perfect alternative to the formal education system because victims and activists can speak freely and encourage constructive debate on these sensitive matters.
Rape culture is a reality and not a myth, and activism can be seen as a good approach. This is the point that has been made throughout this paper where statistics and scholarly works have been used as evidence. Activism is seen as an ideal solution because many major social problems have been addressed this way. In this case, examples of current efforts are outlined and further recommendations are offered. Most importantly, the use of social media to educate the general public about the problem is seen as the best approach because all stakeholders can get involved in the discussion. The education and awareness target both potential victims and assailants, especially because many cases are the result of miscommunication. However, changing society’s way of thinking will help reduce the normalization and perpetrators will start to be held accountable.
Brake, Deborah. “Fighting the Rape Culture Wars Through the Preponderance of the Evidence Standard.” Montana Law Review, vol. 78, no. 1, 2017, pp. 109-154.
Garcia, Chloe and Ayesha Vemuri. “Girls and Young Women Resisting Rape Culture through YouTube Videos.” Girlhood Studies, vol. 10, no. 2, 2017, pp. 26-44.
Jozkowski, Kristen et al. “Sexual Consent In and Out of the Bedroom: Disjunctive Views of Heterosexual College Students.” Women’s Studies in Communication, vol. 41, no. 2, 2018, pp. 117-139.
Persson, Sofia and katie Dhingra. “Attributions of Blame in Stranger and Acquaintance Rape: A Multilevel Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review.” Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, vol. 27, no. 13-14, 2020, pp. 1-15.
Rentschler, Carrie. “Rape Culture and the Feminist Politics of Social Media.” Girlhood Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, 2014, pp. 65-82.
Taub, Amanda. “Rape Culture Isn’t a Myth. It’s Real, and It’s Dangerous.” 2014. Vox. Web.