“The sexual assault had been so clear, but instead, here I was at the trial, answering questions like: How old are you? How much do you weigh? What did you eat that day? Well what did you have for dinner? Who made dinner? Did you drink with dinner?” said the victim of convicted rapist Brock Turner in her victim impact statement.
If you’ve watched any Law and Order: SVU episode that pertained to sexual assaults occurring on a college campus you’d know these questions are very common. The most common questions being, “Did you drink any alcohol?” or “How much alcohol did you consume that night?” It’s probably not all that surprising to know that this an issue that doesn’t just occur on television but also in reality.
Sexual assaults on campus is a huge problem in rape culture. Rape culture is a culture where rape is rife and violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. This term was derived during the 1970s by second wave feminist with the goal of spreading knowledge about the rape epidemic taking place in America.
Being a rapist and violating a woman isn’t the only way to be an active participant in rape culture. If you’re telling a woman she should be watching what she wears, blaming a victim for being raped, or showing more support to an athlete accused of rape instead of the victim you are an active participant in rape culture. If you’re a college that prefers students who’ve been sexually assaulted to “keep quiet” about their rape for the sake of your schools’ reputation you are an active participant in rape culture.
Many people don’t believe that rape culture exists on college campuses but statistics and recent cases prove otherwise. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and Dr. John Foubert, one in five female college students have been sexually assaulted, 90 percent won’t report their assault, 72 to 81 percent of female sexual assault survivors are intoxicated, and only seven percent of those intoxicated will report their assault. Despite these statistics people still don’t see rape as an issue and that is the issue.
“We live in a culture that encourages women to take precautions individually to avoid being attacked instead of encouraging potential perpetrators (mostly men) to see women as valuable and deserving of bodily autonomy and respect. Our culture teaches women that is it their responsibility to change their behavior and stay hyper vigilant. It encourages men to feel entitled to women’s bodies. This isolates women and tells them to avoid being the next victim (rape is seen as inevitable) instead of working together to shift culture so that there won’t BE a next victim,” says Ariana Barer, the educational outreach coordinator of the Women Against Violence Against Women organization.
While many campuses don’t acknowledge rape culture there are also some that are trying to make a change to the culture. “Blame the system, not the victim!” This is chant that students of the F*ck Rape Culture organization at Ohio University repeat as they march against rape culture. This organization was created four years ago to eliminate and challenge rape culture. The meaning of the chant goes very deep– they describe that we live in a patriarchal system where women are considered a secondary factor and men dominate the system. How can we really disagree? The highest authority figures in our country are men. During the election, a video came out where Donald Trump said, “grab her by the pu**y,” and he was still elected president. Our system was not made to see women as respectable figures.
Currently in Texas, senators are proposing five bills that take actions against sexual assaults because they see colleges need a culture change. The five bills include: Senate bill 576 will hold student leaders and employees responsible if they fail to report a sexual assault to a Title IX coordinator within 48 hours. Senate bill 966 will allow minors to be free from underage drinking violations when they report a sexual assault violation. Senate bill 968 which will allow anonymous and electronic reporting of sexual assaults on institution websites. Senate bill 969 will exempt sexual assault survivors and witnesses from being held responsible for school code violations. Senate bill 970 will execute an affirmative consent policy at higher education institutions.
These proposals would be a huge contribution to ending the high percentage of unreported sexual assaults on campus. This would increase the number of victims that report their assault because they will no longer have to fear facing disciplinary actions for violating school codes. Adding an affirmative consent policy will allow perpetrators to know that they need strict consent.
While these are major steps to ending raping culture, more steps should be taken. More campuses must acknowledge that rape culture is an issue and take the proper steps to educate students about it. It’s not just about setting laws or punishing a perpetrator. We live in a world that teaches women how to not get raped instead of teaching young men not to rape and that is another issue that falls under rape culture.
In this society, there’s a list of unwritten rules that a woman must follow to avoid being sexually assaulted. Watch what you wear, don’t go outside late, don’t be too friendly, and so many more. Why must a woman limit herself to avoid being assaulted? In reality, a woman can be fully clothed, sober, walking in broad daylight, and still get assaulted. A woman can’t prevent herself from being raped.
Instead of creating sexual assault “prevention” programs that tell women what they need to do, we need classes that teach men that they are not entitled to a woman’s body and they are not inclined to do as they please. We also need to redefine masculinity and what it means to be a man. An ideal male in society is considered powerful or controlling—that is what the young men of our society is taught. We need to create a new definition so that they don’t feel the need to prove how “powerful” or “controlling” they can be.
A culture is created by the people and it can be changed by the people! It is up to us to change the world. Educate, spread knowledge and awareness on issues, and never give up. Changing a culture is hard but it’s not impossible.