Rape Culture: noun, a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.
We live in a rape culture, but many people refuse to accept or acknowledge this fact. As a peer educator for Step In, Speak Out here at OU, I often hear people try to challenge the term ‘rape culture.’ Often citing the gender-based violence that occurs in regions of the middle east and saying the U.S. doesn’t have a problem in comparison.
Yes, other parts of the world are plagued with examples of sexual violence. Except, the problem with that logic is just because a problem exists elsewhere the problem here is not any less significant. Compare the reasoning to murder. Just because murder rates are higher in a different place, a murder here is no less significant due to its frequent occurrence elsewhere. The same is true to rape, sexual assault, and other gender-based acts of violence.
The sooner we all as a society choose to accept that this problem is real, the sooner we can begin making holistic changes to stopping gender-based violence. The change includes and is not limited to: knowing when you do or don’t have consent, believing victims, holding perpetrators accountable, stopping the romanticization and normalization of sexual violence, stopping the objectification of the human body, and by stepping in to stop the promotion of rape myths.
As citizens of our society, we are all held responsible for stopping gender-based violence. We are all members of the environment and actively choose to influence it for the better or worst. Staying passive and choosing to not speak out against crimes we witness is a form of acceptance. We see the problem happen, but allow it to continue. So to help make stepping in easier, we should all be equipped with the knowledge of how to intervene and stop a crime from progressing. Be the active bystander who can impact a situation in a positive direction.
The consequences for stepping into a situation to stop a potential assault are minimal in comparison to the consequences a victim likely will face in the weeks, months, and often years following an assault. Experiencing everything from PTSD from the event, unhealthy life choices, to even suicide. Gender-based violence is an act of power and control over a victim and due to the rape culture we live in our society rapists will often fail to label their behavior as rape. To prevent acts of sexual violence, we must understand what creates this rape culture.
In this context, consent is when we have coherent and mutual agreement upon two people to have sex. If a person has had too much to drink, they may have become incapacitated and unable to give consent. Knowing this, don’t engage in sexual actions if you are unsure of their ability to provide legal consent.
Additionally, if a person says no, then stop. No means no. They are not trying to play hard to get. Then the absence of a no does not justify a yes. Yes, can only come in the form of a verbal ‘yes,’ or in the form of a physical body language that makes the intent clear.
During assault victims are often afraid to say ‘stop,’ ‘no,’ or to fight back. Fearing the consequences that may come with resistance. So during sex, we are all responsible for checking in with our partner. Ask them if they are okay or if they are comfortable with continuing. Everyone ALWAYS has the right to revoke their consent at any moment.
Victim Blaming occurs when we question the victim’s actions leading up to an assault. ‘What were you wearing?’ ‘Why are you drinking?’ Why were you the party to begin with?’ Everyone has the freedom to dress as they please, drink as they wish, and go to a party whenever they insist. None of these are reasons why a person is ever sexually assaulted. Assaults are always a reflection of the rapist, never the survivor.
Shifting the blame from the rapist by questioning the victim is a way of protecting the rapist. It avoids the real questions that need to should be asked and shames the individual who needs the support and resources going forward. Instead, begin by believing the victim whenever they come forward.
According to multiple studies, only 2-8% of claims of sexual assault or rape ever turn out to be false reports. This is on track with all other major crimes, like thefts or homicide. Due to the prevalent amounts of victim blaming we have in our society survivors are often hesitant to come forward and report the crime. Not to even begin the aspect of trying to report an act of sexual misconduct committed by a male in a position of authority or respect. The claim is often discredited as a woman seeking revenge or trying to ruin the reputation of the accused.
This must stop; otherwise, sexual violence will persist in our culture. We must actively approach the conversation in a way that will empower victims and allow them the space to make their claim. The way we approach problems and address them matter. A comment like ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘it is just locker room talk’ is not acceptable. To be blunt and honest, if we choose to allow comments like that to go on another day, we allow for this plague of gender-based violence in society to continue. We can all be the difference that makes the next generation be the generation that stops sexual violence. The generation that stands us a says ‘enough is enough!’
For those of you reading this who are survivors of sexual assault, I want you to know that we believe you. There are people out there who stand by your claim and are willing to help. You are not defined by what has happened to you and should not feel an ounce of guilt. If you are one of these people who may need help don’t be afraid to reach out there are resources on our campus and in our community that can help you make the right decision for you!
- OU Advocates: (405) 615-0013, a 24/7, 365 day a year hotline for all OU students. This is a confidential form of reporting which means you are not required to make a case by going to them. They are amazing at being a directory for what path is best for you! *Confidential Resource*
- Gender + Equality Center: (405) 325-4929, located in Suite 247 in the Union open from M-F, 8:00am – 5:00pm. They are available to talk to, answer questions, help with LGBTQ related issues, dating advice, and everything in between. *Confidential Resource*
- Title IX: (405) 325-2215, this is a mandatory reporting option, which is where you would go to begin creating a case and taking legal responses for what has happened to you. Their primary office is Four Partners Place, 301 David L. Boren Blvd., Suite 1000, Norman, OK 73019. With a satellite office in Walker Center, 1406 Asp Ave., Room W220, Norman, OK 73019
- OUPD: (405) 325-1911
- Norman Rape Crisis Hotline: (405) 701-5660 *Confidential Resource*
- OU-Norman Student Counseling Service: (405) 325-2911 or 325-2700 *Confidential Resource*
Olan Field is a sophomore journalism major. He hopes to become a news and journalism correspondent covering civil rights and humanitarian issues around the world.