OPINION: An ignored epidemic

Rape culture cannot become the norm


We live in a day and age where rape, in certain social settings, is considered an accomplishment, a prize, a challenge to be conquered. It seems every weekend, there’s a new occurrence of the same story. There was a party, she was drunk, and it’s her fault.

“You shouldn’t have worn such slutty clothing.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have been drinking?”

“Be more responsible next time.”

“You didn’t say no. You didn’t fight back.”

“Think about THEIR future. You don’t wanna ruin that.”

Statements like these are the reason survivors of sexual assault are terrified to come forward with their stories. In a survey done by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives. Furthermore, rape is an under reported crime, with an estimated 63% of cases going unreported. It has made its way into the norms of society, more specifically on college campuses. Rape is no longer looked at by many women as an if but a when, something that’s inevitable. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), around 95% of campus rapes go unreported. It’s time we ask ourselves, why?

When a victim of assault is referred to as a “career ruiner” for coming forward, it tells young women to worry more about the reputation of their rapist than their own well being. In 2016 Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was accused of three accounts of felony sexual assault. After his father called the rape of an unconscious and intoxicated 19-year-old girl “20 minutes of action,” Turner was sentenced to a pitiful six months in jail and three years of probation.

This caused a public outrage saying his sentencing was too lenient. Turner, a convicted rapist, is now freely roaming the streets of his home state of Ohio after only serving three months for good behavior. His violent assault and life altering impact on his victim, who is referred to as Emily Doe, is written in a heart wrenching 7,000 word statement, where she describes the horrors and the trauma that she has had to live with since her attack in 2015.

The fear of inevitable retaliation is simply too overwhelming to overcome. Understandably, a woman is not going to willingly make herself vulnerable by sharing her story with people who are uneducated and uninformed of the seriousness that is rape. In an essay written in Time Magazine, Caroline Kitchens states, “Though rape is certainly a serious problem, there’s no evidence that it’s considered a cultural norm.”

Shortly after, Time published a response to Kitchens’ piece written by a survivor of rape. Zerlina Maxwell states in her response, “Is 1 in 5 American women surviving rape or attempted rape considered a cultural norm? Is 1 in 6 men being abused before the age of 18 a cultural norm? These statistics are not just shocking, they represent real people.” People like Kitchens are the reasons the collective voices of sexual assault survivors go unheard. They are terrified of being shamed for seeking change in an environment where they thought they would be safe.

Rape culture in America, especially at universities, is a serious and very real issue. This leads me to the question, how do we begin to build a society where rape accusations are taken seriously? A society where we stop glorifying rapists solely because they are college athletes? A society where we are advocates for survivors, not enemies? An important place to start is not questioning the victim, but questioning the perpetrator. Victims are not, and never will be, the reason they were raped. It does not matter how drunk they may have been, how revealing their outfit was, how much she was “asking for it.”

Consent is not a head nod, a whisper, a yes that turns into no, a drunken stutter, nor is it a topic up for debate. I cannot stress this enough when I say consent is an ENTHUSIASTIC yes from both parties in a state of unaltered and complete consciousness.

As humans, we have a very hard time acknowledging the toxicity of the culture we live in. We do everything we can to ignore the reality of the things we as people turn a blind eye to because it’s “not our business.” Everyday we here stories of assault that we believe will never happen to us or someone we know, until it does. If one in five women are raped in their lifetime, in each class you have at least three girls in that class have already, or will eventually, experience sexual assault at some point on average.

These are real stories, real statistics, real problems. Rape culture affects all of us in some way shape or form. Whether you’ve been a victim or a witness or even a perpetrator, it affects everyone.

An immense amount of damage has already been done, but it’s up to us to try and prevent that from being the reality of our children, our grandchildren, even our younger siblings. Rape culture is so incredibly real.

As crazy as it may seem, I want to live my life without becoming another statistic, without being the next victim who is too scared to speak up, and without living with the guilt of letting my rapist roam freely.

We must seek change.

We must be the voices for those who have been silenced.