A friend encouraged me to address this issue. I would be remiss if I didn't give her credit. Do me a favor, and stop by her website when you have a chance.
There's been a term thrown around that surprised me when I heard it. Lately, the term has become more and more common. The term: Rape Culture.
People have said that we, the US primarily, live in a Rape Culture. My first reaction was shock and doubt. I've never felt like rape was ok, neither taught to me by teachers, parents, or superiors, nor implied by my peers. It. Is. Just. Wrong.
I've had to consider why anyone would think we live in a Rape Culture. Their experiences must have given them reason. Something must have happened.
Once, a friend opened up to me briefly about her rape. I had always heard that rape is difficult to address because the secrecy associated with it. Not just by the aggressor, but by the victim also. To learn of my friend's experience was shocking, to say the least. It was also troubling.
It made me wonder how many more women I know had been victimized like this. How many more men in my town have made the same despicable choice as the one who violated my friend.
In the past few months, we've seen signs of a Rape Culture in the US. Three times we've heard stories of teens who raped a girl while she was inebriated. Three times we've heard stories of cell phone pictures of the act itself spread virally throughout the school before the authorities stepped in. More than once, the victim has reached the point of suicide after the blow to her reputation, and through the unfortunate shame common to most rape victims.
I've started to see the Rape Culture in the world around me. The statistics are staggering. The effect on the victims are mortifying. Yet somehow I hear jokes like "Rape is just surprise sex" from people trying to make light of the reality of rape. To echo a cliche from my previous post, "the Devil's biggest trick was convincing the world he doesn't exist." In the same spirit, rape can't be addressed until we acknowledge the problem.
Knowing the reality of our Rape Culture, I ask you a question in the same way it was posed to me: What, exactly, needs to be done?
We certainly can't sit quietly while this vile Rape Culture continues. But what can we do? Do we consider these isolated events as the products of twisted minds, or are they symptoms of a twisted culture? Do we work to more severely punish rape, or do we look for the underlying societal conditions that have allowed it? Do we teach women to defend themselves, or do we raise men to be more respectful of the women around them?
After quite a bit of thought, my answer is Yes.
Yes, rape occurs when someone's ethics, priorities, and rationality become twisted, and it continues to happen because our culture allows it. Yes, rape deserves severe punishment and swift justice, and Yes, we need to change the societal conditions that somehow foster a Rape Culture. Yes, women should be able to defend themselves, and Yes, we should raise men to be respectful enough of women to abolish all need for their defense.
I honestly can't choose one solution to this problem. To narrow down our attack to only one position would be to guarantee a losing battle. As a society, we need to proclaim that rape is not acceptable. We need to demand punishment for rapists and resources to heal their victims. We need to shout a vehement NO to Rape Culture and never stand down.
My first draft included a call to respect women with a long list of reasons why they deserve it. But now, I think a logical defense of women's respect is empty. To boil their quality down to a list is an injustice. Do you know why women deserve respect? Because they do. Period. If you disagree, I suggest you tell me to my face, because there are plenty of things I'd like to say to yours.
I've come to appreciate the term Zero Tolerance in the writing of this post. I think that's exactly the trend that will get us to the end of this unimaginable societal flaw. Starting now, join with me in showing Zero Tolerance to Rape Culture.
Always moving forward,