Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Culture of Rape in Steubenville

On August 11, 2012, a young teenage girl was raped and humiliated by at least two male students of Steubenville High in Ohio. Fellow students and party-goers did nothing to stop the assault, instead choosing to Instagram photos of the attack. 

The New York Times ran an article that received little attention, but it was a blogger that started the conversation about this particular crime. It has now finally reached the national media.

This rape highlights the horrifying nature of rape culture and how is infiltrates every aspect of our lives.

Marshall University has a succinct definition of rape culture. It includes examples of rape culture.

Examples of Rape Culture:

  • Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
    Friends and supporters of the accused point to the girl's drinking, lying to her parents about where she was going for the evening, and her tweets and postings indicating she was "promiscuous". 
  • Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
    One witness to the rape saw one of the accused rape the victim with his fingers. He told prosecutors that he did not think it was that serious of an offense.
  • Sexually explicit jokes
  • Tolerance of sexual harassment
  • Inflating false rape report statistics
  • Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
    Lawyers for the accused are using the victim's past twitter and other public posts to shame and malign her character.
  • Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television
  • Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
  • Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
  • Pressure on men to “score”
  • Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
  • Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
    Friends and supporters of the accused portray the victim as "loose" and a "whore" who lied to her parents so she could get drunk and have sex.
  • Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
  • Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
    Initially after the rape was reported, little was done. Only after pressure from a blogger, a New York Times article, and now with more national exposure does the community seem to be taking the accusations against these two students seriously.
  • Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape
    In my personal experience, I have
    only been taught by my prior educators to avoid getting raped. I imagine students of Steubenville High, if there is such a thing as discussion of sexual assault, are told the same.
I would add "bystanders witness sexual assault and do nothing to intervene." When the victim is a woman and she is not actively rejecting advances, she is automatically perceived as consenting...and so no one should assist. 

On August 11, a teenage girl - too drunk to walk and too drunk to consent - was raped multiple times by multiple people in front of multiple witnesses. No one helped her because our culture of rape tells us it is her fault, that teenage boys are teenage boys, that inserting your fingers into an unconscious girl's vagina is simply "not forceful" (that is literally what a witness reported when he saw one of the accused penetrate the victim with his fingers). 

I don't know the direct source (and I am happy to cite correctly), but below is a list of how to avoid rape that has floated around the intarwebz for years...but I doubt it's floated into classrooms everywhere. This is a nice tutorial on how to prevent rape. It applies to both men and women, but especially men. 

Additionally, if you witness something and are unsure of whether it is sexual assault, I have one suggestion applicable to this - if a person is unconscious and someone is inserting objects into that person, report that as an assault. Or, if you are simply unsure, err on the side of the victim and assume it is an assault and stop it (if safe) or contact authorities. 

It is unconscionable what these young men did to this young woman. Unconscionable.I will be equally disturbed by what little penalties they receive, if they receive any at all. Equally horrifying is our culture that teaches men and women to witness violence and do nothing more than tweet about it.

If a woman is drunk, don’t rape her.
If a woman is walking alone at night, don’t rape her.
If a women is drugged and unconscious, don’t rape her.
If a woman is wearing a short skirt, don’t rape her.
If a woman is jogging in a park at 5 am, don’t rape her.
If a woman looks like your ex-girlfriend you’re still hung up on, don’t rape her.
If a woman is asleep in her bed, don’t rape her.
If a woman is asleep in your bed, don’t rape her.
If a woman is doing her laundry, don’t rape her.
If a woman is in a coma, don’t rape her.
If a woman changes her mind in the middle of or about a particular activity, don’t rape her.
If a woman has repeatedly refused a certain activity, don’t rape her.
If a woman is not yet a woman, but a child, don’t rape her.
If your girlfriend or wife is not in the mood, don’t rape her.
If your step-daughter is watching TV, don’t rape her.
If you break into a house and find a woman there, don’t rape her.
If your friend thinks it’s okay to rape someone, tell him it’s not, and that he’s not your friend.
If your “friend” tells you he raped someone, report him to the police.
If your frat-brother or another guy at the party tells you there’s an unconscious woman upstairs and it’s your turn, don’t rape her, call the police and tell the guy he’s a rapist.
Tell your sons, god-sons, nephews, grandsons, sons of friends it’s not okay to rape someone.
Don’t tell your women friends how to be safe and avoid rape.
Don’t imply that she could have avoided it if she’d only done/not done x.
Don’t imply that it’s in any way her fault.
Don’t let silence imply agreement when someone tells you he “got some” with the drunk girl.
Don’t perpetuate a culture that tells you that you have no control over or responsibility for your actions. You can, too, help yourself.

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