Rape Culture

What is Rape Culture?

Rape Culture perpetuates the belief that victims have contributed to their own victimization and are responsible for what has happened to them.

 

 

How does Rape Culture Impact Survivors?

Rape culture is defined as stereotyped, false beliefs about rape that justify sexual aggression and trivialize the seriousness of sexual violence. Rape culture has a negative impact on survivors, serving as a silencing function for those who wish to share their narrative. This environment breeds a culture of victim blaming (see below) where individuals are judged and perceived as being responsible for what has happened to them. Specific statements such as “they asked for it”, “it wasn’t really rape”, “they didn’t mean to” or “they liked it” are common beliefs that are propagated within our society to reinforce blame toward the victim. Individuals who adapt to these rape myths, are more likely to assume responsibility to the victim for the rape and may perceive that the trauma associated with the rape is less severe or believable. Based on this phenomenon, our society continues to alienate survivors, making it less likely for them to come forward, share their story, or report to law enforcement or academic institutions, for fear of being held responsible.

 

graphic of what rape culture looks like

graphic source: weareultraviolet.org/rapeculture*

What is Victim Blaming?

Victim Blaming is a devaluing act that occurs when the victim(s) of a crime is held responsible – in whole or in part – for the crime(s) that have been committed against them.

Examples:

  • I was strongly encouraged not to file a police report as “this family provides a lot of support” to college.
  •  The panel of students and professors found that it was a “misunderstanding.”
  • “It’s hard to believe it was really assault, you don’t have any bruises.”
  • “You aren’t expressing any emotion, so it must not have happened.”
  • “That skirt is too short, no wonder you got raped.”
  • “You walked through a dangerous neighborhood, what did you expect?”
  • “You’re openly lesbian, no wonder you can’t get jobs.”
  • “You outed yourself as trans on a website, no wonder you’re discriminated against.”

Myths & Facts

MYTH: False allegations of rape are common.

FACT: Estimates put the number of false reports around 2%. This is no higher than false reports for any other crime.

MYTH: Men can’t be raped.

FACT: Men can be and are sexually assaulted. Men in same-sex relationships often face the most stigma and prejudice. Gender roles dictate that males are expected to be strong, self-reliant and able to “fend” off an assault. (learn more here)

MYTH: Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers.

FACTS: 90% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.

MYTH: Domestic violence usually only happens in married couples.

FACT: 1/3 of all high school and college-aged people experience violence in an intimate or dating relationship. (Learn more here)

MYTH:  If they didn’t struggle or fight back then it wasn’t sexual assault.

FACT: Submission does not equal consent. A lack of "no" does not mean “yes”. (Learn more here)

MYTH: Victims provoke sexual assault by flirting, wearing sexy clothes or getting drunk

FACT: The belief that a victim can “provoke” a sexual assault is built on the idea that perpetrators cannot control themselves.

MYTH: Once consent is given to sexual contact it cannot be withdrawn.

FACT: Consent is not a binding contract that relinquishes all subsequent decision-making power and gives a person complete control over another’s body. (Learn more here)

How Can I Help?

  • Examine which aspects of your own beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors need to be challenged
  • Avoid using language that objectifies.
  • Educate yourself!
  • Do not let stereotypes shape your actions.
  • Participate in education and outreach opportunities to spread awareness to others.
  • Reach out! Speak out! Name injustices! Be an Active Bystander! YOU CAN HELP!
  • Build community with “people like us,” and “people different from us”
  • Be a role model & ally – volunteer for SHARPP!
  • Transform systems using your sphere of influence
  • Take care of self
  • Always communicate with sexual partners and do not assume consent.
  • Let survivors know that it is not their fault!

Page Sources:

•  Burt, 1980, Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1994, Gerger, Kley, Bohner 2007, McMahon & Farmer 2011)
•  End Violence Against Women International
•  RAINN
•  Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS)
•  The Cycle of Liberation, Bobbi Harro

*above graphic sources

1. Reporting Sexual Assault: Why Survivors Often Don't, Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, retrieved June 8, 2016
2. Tens of thousands of rape kits go untested across USA, USA Today, July 7, 2015
3. Top Ten Things Advocates Need to Know, University of Kentucky Center for Research on Violence Against Women, December 2011
4. The Psychological Impact of Rape Victims' Experiences with Legal, Medical, and Mental Health Systems, American Psychologist, November 2008
5. Males Are More Likely to Suffer Sexual Assault Than Be Falsely Accused Of It, Huffington Post, December 8, 2014
6. 97 of every 100 Rapists Receive No Punishment, RAINN Analysis Says, RAINN, March 27, 2012