What is Rape Culture?
Introduced in the 1970’s by feminists, “rape culture” describes a phenomenon in which society blames victims of sexual assault and even normalizes male sexual violence. When society normalizes things like sexual violence it essentially is accepting and creating a rape culture environment, making it harder for victims to feel safe and confident enough to share their experience, while also making it easier for attackers to continue the behavior.
In a society with a dysfunctional rape culture, victims are blamed and marginalized, rather than protected and supported. This indifference sends victims the corrupt message that they are somehow responsible for their situation, or that they deserved or asked for it. Too many times an accused male goes on without consequence, without even being confronted, much less arrested and prosecuted. Since the introduction to “rape culture” in the 70’s our focus on rape has shifted greatly.
Living Through Rape Culture
Sexual assault is not an event that survivors suffer just once and forget about, it’s usually something they struggle with for the rest of their lives, especially when it comes to having healthy, intimate, and personal relationships. Sexual assault victims often have a hard time feeling safe in everyday situations. If a victim doesn’t seek therapy, the aftermath can affect every aspect of life. Surprisingly enough, rape is most likely to be committed by someone you know rather than by a stranger. The powerlessness felt by a victim can be overwhelming and seem completely hopeless. Survivors need support.
Speak, Speak, Speak
First and foremost, if you or someone you know was a victim of sexual assault, tell someone. Your voice and the truth are powerful tools. By telling someone, you are saying, “THIS IS NOT OKAY.” Silence allows violence to go unchecked. Find someone you can trust and share your experience. Speak out about your experiences and listen for others who also need to use that voice. We must first join forces as women in unity. Change is always made with numbers.
Prevention and Protocol
It can always serve you some good to have a form of protection on you (pepper spray is a wonderful option as it is small enough to put on your key chain, and legal to carry). Designated Safe Places have been established as rape crisis centers that house individuals who feel threatened or who have already been victimized. Also, look for yellow triangle signs outside of the buildings such as gas stations, grocery stores, and local gyms that read “Safe Place.” This states that these buildings abide by the protection laws everyone is granted in public.
One of the most important things after an assault occurs is to report it to the police to ensure that the attacker is punished and is not allowed to attack anyone else. If you or someone you know has been raped remember this, although they may feel like going home and showering first, please avoid doing that at all costs and go to a medical facility immediately. Receiving medical attention right away is very important, as you do not want to wash away any evidence that may help prosecute your perpetrator. The Violence Against Women Act requires states to provide sexual assault forensic exams free of charge. Rape kits will be provided and are very important as it preserves the evidence of possible DNA. Rape kits contain the following:
- Bags and paper sheets for evidence collection
- Documentation forms
- Materials for blood samples
DNA evidence needs to be collected within 72 hours.
National Sexual Assault Hotlines are also very resourceful and connect you to a trained staff member who will connect you with an appropriate healthcare facility. These facilities will care for survivors of sexual assault and provide them with anything they need to make the coping process easier. If you are need of these services, please do not hesitate to call:
National Sexual Assault Hotline
1-800-656-4673 [24/7 hotline]
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
Women are more respected today and have so many sexual assault resources to provide support after being raped. Sharing our stories helps reduce stigma and lets others know the insanity of sexual assault in this country. Remember to be kind to yourself always. Take your power back. We have come a long way in some areas of sexual assault and with more women and men joining the fight every day we continue to make strides.