Rape culture in The West: denial of widespread harm
Assault, abuse, sexual assault
Rape culture in The West is something commonly misunderstood. The act of rape does not have to be widely supported for a rape culture to exist. Though this is a widespread misconception. Yes, we have rape culture in The West.
No, it is not a myth and I will gladly explain in great detail why. Let’s take a closer look at common behaviors that are normalized in a rape culture. This mini series will look at five different behaviors in depth, along with multiple examples of each.
Another common sign of rape culture is denial of its existence. And if there isn’t denial of its existence, there’s significant denial about the degree of harm it does in society. We do this by relentlessly supporting convicted rapists.
We also do this by excusing the crime a rapist has committed by shifting responsibility or inventing reasons why they should not be held accountable for their actions.
We are in denial of rape culture and just how widespread it is when we insist on perpetuating any of the previously mentioned examples of symptoms of a rape culture. We are actively contributing to rape culture when we refuse to accept statistics and research.
When we dismiss reality because we don’t personally know someone who has been raped, we are making it that much harder to create a safer environment for everyone.
Due to the acknowledgment that rape cases are severely under reported, it is speculated that false rape accusations are somewhere between 2% and 6% of all rape cases. This is no more statistically common than false accusations in other serious crimes such as robbery and homicide.
Meaning that most individuals have nothing to fear if they have not committed a crime. If you fear false rape accusations but not false murder accusations, reflect on why that might be. When we’re in denial about living in a rape culture, we focus on the false accusations instead of the credible ones.
What ‘widespread’ looks like
We focus on discrediting people who come forward instead of hearing them out. We make excuses for the accused instead of looking at statistical probabilities. In short, we become emotional instead of rational.
The harm caused by widespread rape culture is vast and encompasses behaviours such as reconsidering what you’re wearing based on your perceived level of safety in a situation.
Strategically parking under lamp posts and in view of cameras. Carrying pepper spray and mace, Guarding your drink in a social setting, and on and on the list goes.
To get a clearer picture of just how conditioned we are, if you’re a woman, make a list of all the things you do or think about to avoid being raped. If you’re a man, as a woman what she does and thinks about to avoid rape.
The results of denying the existence of rape culture
High rates of depression, anxiety, self harm, eating disorders, sleeping disorders, substance abuse and suicidal behaviour occur for many women who are sexually assaulted.
I struggle to think anyone would disagree that these things are harmful. In fact, suicides attempts are more likely for women who have experienced sexual assault.
There are also other harms that comes from rape culture such as unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections or other medical complications for victims of rape. In Canada, almost 3.5 billion is the annual financial impact for women who experience sexual assault.
This is due to expenses such as medical, time off work, therapy, relocation etc, and doesn’t even account for intangible costs such as pain and suffering.
Is one third of women and almost one tenth of men a significant enough volume of people for sexual assault, harassment and rape to be considered a widespread issue?
If you don’t think nearly 40% of a population is high enough to warrant the label of “widespread,” consider what figure would be high enough for you. 50%? 60%? 80%?
Exactly how many people need to live a sexually violating experience for you to agree there is a pervasive societal issue at hand?
The Next Step
This is part five of a five part mini series. Click here to read on to part one.
Question of the Week
Should the internet be selectively censored?
Studies have proven that exposure to certain forms of online content leads to an increased likelihood to dehumanize a specific group of people or even commit violent acts against them. Two significant examples to point to are violent porn and hate crimes. What are your thoughts on online censorship for some types of content? Should censorship exist? If so, who controls it, and to what extent? Can we trust them to remain ethical with this control? If not, how do we justify the harm that comes to people as a result of a lack of censorship? Who would be most negatively impacted and why?
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