With Steubenville and its infamous rape case are back in the news as 4 more adults alongside a previously charged school information technologist are indicted in connection to the 2012 case involving what happened to a 16 year old at party attended by several football players, it also reignites the debate, discussion about the seedy subculture seen throughout America promoting violence against women. The so called rape culture still prevalent right here in the good old US of A with more than just a long history of blaming and shaming the victim, but making it, rape, an act of violence, about women, girls walking around half naked, having a history of promiscuous sexual behavior, of prostitution, getting drunk, engaging in risky behavior, being the causality. What should be talked about, the motivations, mindset behind rape and the psychology of men who rape. Fueling the concept of a rape culture are scenarios nearly identical to what many believe happened in Steubenville, high profile individuals not brought to justice because of their influence nationally, globally, throughout their community, wholesome images as solid, upstanding citizens and/or cover ups perpetuated by colleagues, friends, family, school officials, powerful community members, local law enforcement. Result, seeing the reputation of the victim tarnished while the perpetrator is treated lightly, with kid gloves, remains unindicted to save political careers, family face, in the instance of Steubenville, football scholarships, college dreams and bright futures. Now multitudes feel vindicated regarding their initial reactions to what transpired in Ohio seeing surrounding adults being legally held accountable for the lying, tampering with evidence and turning a blind eye to what they suspected was going on, but like all aspects of, particularly this case, only time will tell who really knew what and when. However it all ends, do incidents such as this truly point to a rape culture in America, a culture sanctioning violence against women, a culture that has no place in a country as great as America, the role model for the westernized world?
Unpopular, insensitive to the struggles of women as it may seem the answer is no; there is no rape culture in America. Yes rape happens far more often than it should in a country as stable, prosperous and functional as the United States, yes many rapes go unreported due to the cultural stigma victims feel they will receive, and yes, too many times high profile persons have used their reputation to avoid charges; however, rape remains a crime in all parts of the United Sates. No so in other places; going beyond classifying rape as a crime to be prosecuted under the law, tireless work on behalf of victims’ rights groups has broadened the definition of rape over the decades to include marital rape, date/acquaintance rape and federal categorizing of crime statistics just changed last year to ensure inclusion of all alleged rapists, no matter the sex of the victim or perpetrator, type of penetration. This action taken to protect homosexual individuals from previously ignored assault; in addition these compiled statistics will now include oral penetration by sex organ or forcible penetration by object. Also, expanding the definition, any kind of sex act with someone unable to give consent i.e. if they are unconscious, drugged, drunk or under age of legal consent in their state, key components in the Steubenville prosecution, all of which is meant to give a more accurate picture of sexual violent crime nationwide. Hardly needing to be said is that it is long overdue, but nevertheless it is finally here. Further challenging the idea there persists a rape culture, promotion of rape as an acceptable behavior under certain circumstances is that, as deplorable as cases of injustice surrounding sexual violence, rape are, we hear about them; they do not remain hidden for long but are journalistically reported on in the name of public awareness and achieving justice. And like all forms of abuse, one instance is too many, one case were a rapist does not go to jail, is not charged is too many, over and over once these cases see the light of day, are brought to higher authority attention something is done. A previously unprosecuted rape case in Missouri is now getting a special prosecutor to determine what rightfully should be done next; a teacher who got 30 days behind bars for raping a student is having his extraordinarily light sentence appealed by the state, the judges responsible for said rulings face scrutiny, possible loss of their jobs, as well it should be. Additionally the cronyism nearly always present in these obvious miscarriages of justice is sadly noted throughout the justice system, not just seen exclusively attached to crimes of sexual violence. Continuing to deconstruct the concept of a rape culture transcends long fought for changes to legal definitions, battles on behalf of re-victimized clients coming to terms with rapists given diversionary programs, instead of prison, or negligible incarceration and goes directly to public reaction; the vast majority of citizens support victims’ rights, are appalled people possessing legal power can get away with putting a perpetrator back out on the street the way select ones have been. Part of the reason Steubenville gained national attention was less about social media and more about the sob story being created for the young men virtually ignoring the victim; now for those who read my work with frequency and saw my piece pointing out notable facts and discrepancies, to this day it remains unclear if that’s what actually happened, if their remand to juvenile detention was a slap on the wrist or not. Nevertheless that stands as the consistent, majority, popular, opinion.
Victims advocacy, to begin with America, similar to other western nations, actually has mobilized such a thing, and that advocacy has likewise done major work in explaining the dynamics of rape, why it happens, what motivates individuals who commit this heinous crime, disproving many traditionally, widely held beliefs making rape about just sex and prompting preventative measures centered around women’s dress, coving up as opposed to being “half naked,” women’s behavior and sexual history, not gaining a reputation as someone who is loose, easy, a hussy or more vulgar words and descriptions. When in actuality, rape is about power a person wanting to dominate, control and abuse another, not what clothes they were or weren’t wearing, not their reputation or sexual history; facts demonstrated in the reality rape happens across all age groups, sickeningly from the very young, sometimes infants, to senior citizens, all genders, all ethnicities. Thanks to victims’ rights, psychological research social perception has changed for the better; it is no longer socially acceptable to blame, discredit a potential victim, a victim who comes forward if they were wearing risqué clothes, if they were drunk, if they happened to be a prostitute, if they knew their attacker, were in a relationship with them or were flirting prior to saying no to sex. No still means no, no matter at what point it is uttered in the encounter. It is no longer acceptable legally or socially for a man to take, to force himself on his wife simply because they are married, for a woman, marital partner to be subjected to unwanted, unusual sex acts solely due to their marriage contract, filtering out to all spouses in all marital relationships. Unfortunately not everything meant to protect women, meant as victim advocacy is effective, worthwhile; such is the implication of a new line of, supposed to be, protective clothing for women designed, according to creators, to help women feel safer in high risk situations where they could face rape. So called AR (anti-rape) underwear in various styles set off comment blogs and news stories across the country, but here again people saw through it, some calling it a modern day chastity belt, others saying it reinforced every negative stereotype, every kind of victim blaming, still more wondered if it was a joke the very idea was so ridiculous to them. Most called the flag on this play reminding readers’ news watchers a majority of people are raped by someone they know, rendering the product useless because why would you wear it with someone you know, trust, asked the reasonable question would victims be increasingly heavy-handedly treated by the justice system, politicians for not wearing it? Moreover proving the ill-conceived nature of the proposed clothing line, men, transgender persons, overweight, disabled people get raped too, not just those who look like the women in the promo video; not to mention women wearing the suggested garments automatically make their assault more violent, open themselves up to be beaten, shot, dragged, mutilated, when a frustrated attacker cannot remove the item, facts pointed out by rape crisis counselors interviewed for comment. Also decried by those who aid rape victims, the focus once again placed on how women need to protect themselves as opposed to men being sure they do not rape someone, do not put themselves in a dubious situation that could be construed as rape, and when in doubt, don’t have sex with the person.
With the advent of extreme conservatism being able to successfully plant itself in the middle of mainstream politics, all appearances are we seem to be making several steps backwards in critical areas, from defunding science and research on religious grounds, to limiting sex education and biology disseminated to students on those same grounds, the GOP war on both birth control and abortion, crucial rights allowing women to decide what happens to their own bodies. Yet no matter how many personhood, “heartbeat,” let’s ban abortion after 20 weeks, bills individuals, we wonder how they got elected, try to push through citizens always push back; no matter how many kooks manage to make it to public office, integral fringe candidates found themselves embarrassingly on the wrong side of the issue. Todd Akin of Missouri did not get elected after going on a talk show and saying in effect: if it was a legitimate rape, in his mind vs. someone crying rape to save reputation, not alert their family to their sexual activity, the woman’s body had a way to shut that whole thing down; his explanation for why abortion no longer needed to be legal even available in cases of rape. Richard Mourdock of Indiana found himself in almost identical hot water with voters for suggesting that god intended pregnancies to happen, apparently regardless of if aforementioned pregnancy was the result of rape; pro-life supporters, most listeners no doubt understood what he was trying to say, that no matter if the children are a product of something horrible, they still have the ability to bring joy into their parents’ lives should they decide to keep them. But there was no hope for the senate candidate on the heels of Mr. Akin’s comments, nor considering you want to be a state’s representative and you allow yourself to say something so insensitive, so out of touch, so demeaning to woman who have done nothing wrong, realities that utterly mystified voters into voting for the opposition. Moving past the election itself, members of the public were horrified we had to have, were still having, these conversations in the 21st century; we have men in one of the most progressive, envied cultures on the planet, operating in public office no less, who have less and less knowledge about sexual reproduction and health than your average high school student who has had the benefit of sex ed. It is perceived as one of the many negatives of the conservative movement trying to move us socially back to the 1950’s independent of the significant changes in criminal activity, social dynamics, economic realities. Pushback against the tea party was a title wave in 2012 largely because of the abortion/birth control issue and the rights of a woman to make decisions about her own body coupled with the mindsets prevalent in politicians like Akin, is projected to be an equal force in the 2014 midterms and 2016 presidential elections. Not just due to these issues, but their unwillingness to give them up combined with who lead the government shutdown, conservatives’ willingness to go down rabbit holes on climate change, disputing how old the earth is and so on.
Perhaps the clearest evidence dispelling a rape culture in America is looking farther than our boarders. Transitioning countries such as India who are moving toward a more westernized approach to government and economy, at least, are simultaneously just now finally responding to massive citizen protests, attempting to deal with their overwhelming problem relating to the degrading, subjugation of women. Actions galvanized after a gang rape on a bus there. Outside that are rural, traditional cultures globally where fathers routinely give their daughters away to be married often for financial reasons of being unable to care for them any longer, at astonishingly young ages arrange marriages that are financially beneficial to the family; women, girls live within cultures where she is not allowed to say no to a marriage offer from a man twice or thrice her age, women are seen as property, there to serve a man, including his carnal needs, and like Arab countries, adhere to a strict religious code and standards of propriety to maintain social order. If those codes are broken, women, girls are seen as asking for it, having forfeited their right to justice under whatever scarce laws there might be. Lax laws and lack of enforcement resources are a recurring problem in regions of Latin America, countries like the Philippines, Thailand adjacent parts of Asia; particularly in the latter countries where prostitution has always been somewhat socially acceptable, in those cultures where it either permeates predominately in lower classes or is exclusively for the wealthy, influential. Further there are countries, cultures in Africa besides lacking basic education including about health, hygiene, and reproductive knowledge, here is a place where men are told they can cure HIV/AIDS by having sex with a virgin. Myth prompting risky, unprotected sex and increased sexual partners, putting girls and women at greater disadvantage , because in areas with so little being able to “cure a man of his disease” leads her to think she will be rewarded, taken care of, loved for doing so; in actuality only spreading a deadly infection throughout a content already ravaged by it. Another form of rape even pushed aside in calling out America, western nations for their so called rape culture, is the human trafficking, exploitation of women and children element exemplified by headlines of an international child porn bust and a CGI configuration out of Holland designed to ensnare predators. As a point of fact people with these uncontestably perverse proclivities are going abroad to satisfy their unsanctioned appetites demonstrated by a Nightline investigation of an American man who owned at minimum one bar with underage girls sold for sex, who had a 16 year old girlfriend, but he isn’t the only one. The Dutch CGI also caught 245 U.S. probable pedophiles; however the 800 cases cataloged came from other wealthy nations capitalizing on the sex trade half a world away.
If anything the shocking cases of rape, injustice in rape prosecution, sentencing, the very occurrence of rape as a crime in the United States illustrates we are like the rest of the world in one distinction no nation wants to be known for. Mirroring each other and a less extreme version of Arab, Muslim cultures, all westernized nations have a set of social mores to be followed, acceptable roles for men and women, definitions of those who are of low moral character, who are seen as promiscuous, asking for it, contributing to their own assault by virtue of being drunk, being inhibited by illicit drugs, choosing to wear revealing clothing, choosing to be in a club or other immoral/amoral establishment, flirting prior to the attack. The singular profound difference between them and westernized nations as well as America is we refuse to allow extreme religious dominance in government and society; there are no honor killings, we don’t leave people in burning buildings for donning “improper” clothing, we don’t cane women for wearing pants, demand by law they be with a male relative while out in public, force them to wear a full vale, have their hair covered, again in public, bar them from working, driving a car, deny them education solely on the grounds they were born female. Despite the surge in religious conservatism, there is a limit to how far it is permitted to go, limits enforced by the votes of the people; excitement, enthusiasm for conservative politics is losing its luster in multitudes of American eyes because it refuses to address issues, problems relevant to them on top of their focus on repealing, rolling back numerous women’s rights. Neither do we, including several, once more, western societies accept the backward notions of a few; when the Australian jury/judge blamed a rape victim for wearing skinny jeans it made headlines as much for being wrong as for being news, as did an almost identical outcome in Italy. Journalists and opinion writers quickly intertwined victimology fact with news reporting to make citizens aware; published polling in Britain regarding attitudes on rape was designed to do the same thing, sound the alarm about astonishingly wrongheaded thinking concerning victims. Nor did anyone buy the excuses given by a French father caught via his daughter’s webcam sexually abusing her; most comments attached to various articles on the subject blasted the lawyer for his defense of his client.
Go here to read the story and comments from the lawyer
So if there is no rape culture in America, throughout the westernized world, what exactly is going on; chiefly antiquated perceptions perpetuated from a different era demonstrated in the age of many of the judges receiving justifiably harsh publicity, overwhelmingly old men with gray hair and wrinkles. Persons whose idea of acquaintance rape is that’s what women said to explain pregnancy, unmarried sex, a night of regret. Looking at individuals like Mr. Akin, he represents a specifically American component of aforementioned religious conservatism that believes in a moral, spiritual reason for women to cover up, calling anything short of Maryknoll nun, immodest, citing spiritual, moral reasons to never be in a bar, forget get drunk, take drugs, having a history of blaming the victim for the outcome even if the drugs were not ingested of their own free will i.e. GHB, along with faith based reasons to uphold common stereotypes. Complicating steps to changing stigma surrounding rape once and for all, making the headway in eradicating rape as a crime that occurs first in western nations, then across the globe, is the religious background most western countries have making sex a taboo subject to be avoided, sex is seen as a dirty necessity to procreation leading to children from religious homes who grow up completely ignorant of sexual realities, young people getting no guidance from their less religious parents who are poorly educated on the topic themselves possessing no idea how to talk to their adolescent, facts also true across the U.K. and Australia regardless of Europe’s reputation for being sexually frank and open. More than the diluting of sex ed. in school via the conservative movement, is that sex education has yet to include interactive discussions, tutorials encompassing modern scenarios identical to what happened in Steubenville; rape to young people, unless they have experienced it first hand, especially young men, still is randomly attacking a strange girl or guy in an alley. Date rape to them must include drugging her drink and everyone gets falling down drink at parities. Sex had there is sex; it doesn’t mean I raped anyone. Rape, what do you mean she wasn’t passed out; comments nearly identical to what one of the later convicted Steubenville suspects stated in an ABC news interview. Increasing the complexity of unraveling the American problem with sexual assault, rape is a dual absence of alcohol education beyond the danger of drunk driving, the don’t do it message of underage drinking; there is no education of those about to turn 21, soon legally able to consume and purchase alcohol available, never mind required, parents either don’t drink or drink excessively bordering on alcoholic providing no healthy example of moderation, leaving the falling down drunk at parties perception as the only ones teens see internalizing that as normal, leading to all the other unfortunate circumstances.
What we do about the rapes that do transpire begins with, stop referring to it as a rape culture when describing what is happing in western societies, America; because, misidentifying it isn’t going to help solve it. Rape culture should be a term reserved for cultures, countries where it is not classified as a crime under the legal code, does not prosecute alleged rape due to alternative lifestyles, same sex relationships surrounding the case, cultures, regions, countries where, though it is classified as a crime, it is rarely if ever persecuted, cultures that arrange marriages of older men and underage girls, dynamics like those in areas of Africa functioning on the myth about HIV/AIDS and sex with a virgin. Describing phenomenon in western cultures, in America cannot be couched into a sound bite, a clever phrase; however rape ignorance might be a more accurate terminology. And ending rape ignorance is combatted with education, oddly enough beginning with middle aged, adult members of the public people whose perceptions on the subject are stuck between the decades of the 50’s and the 80’s, updating them on types of rape, not just that it is never the victim’s fault but why; because even if a woman was walking around completely naked, all her attractive features on display, most men would flirt, entice, ask for a date, or if she’s interested in coming to his place, only those with deep psychological disturbances would force her to do any of those things. Instrumental is making sure all aspects of our law enforcement understand said facts eliminating the so called skinny jeans defense taking hold across the U.K., divesting ourselves of judges handing out sentences that don’t fit the crime, that don’t account for the lifelong effects visited on the victim, keeping in mind this is after a jury of their peers has found them guilty, punishments that do nothing to deter future criminal activity, as the justice system is supposed to. Educating young people means incorporating scenarios like what happened in Steubenville, discussions into their sex education; more than letting them know you could go to jail for having sex with someone who is drunk, high on drugs be accused of rape, that it is rape and not just wrong but utterly degrading for the girl/women, thus expanding their perception of what really rape means. It begins and ends with causing the social definition and the legal definition to match in our heads, in our psyches, in our consciousness. No meaning no regardless of if you think the girl, other person is a tease, was flirting, putting forth sex is not an option if the person is tipsy to falling down drunk, moments from passing out, or already unconscious, revealing clothing is not an invitation to constantly come on to someone, never mind solicit them for sex. These are the things inclusive pieces of information that must be assimilated to better western society’s treatment of women.