“She got so raped…” A comment made “in jest” when a 16 year old girl was video taped being raped by high school football players.
We live in a culture of acceptability when it comes to rape. Don’t sit there shaking your head, we do. When you consider the number of little girls, teens, and women sexually assaulted in this country annually, it’s very clear to me that we do live in a culture of acceptability when it comes to rape. We are raising our children to be completely oblivious to it and our girls to be powerless in it.
Most recently, this played out in Steubenville, OH. For those with their heads in the sand, Steubenville, OH is the scene of the most recent rape of a 16 year old girl who was either drugged or drunk and passed out. While passed out, the victim was taped repeatedly raped and urinated on; the act was then subsequently disseminated among her classmates. While there is an ongoing investigation regarding how many other students were involved in the assault, this week we saw the conviction of two primary suspects, both age 16, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays. The boys were members of their high school football team and were clearly seen participating in the sexual assault of and dissemination of sexually explicit material of a minor. They will have to go to jail and register as sex offenders. But its the media coverage of this has been telling. From CNN to Fox News, the coverage has been slanted such that the victim in this case, continues to be victimized. There is a level of sympathy and protection afforded the rapists that does not extend to the victim. In fact, about 9 hours ago, two teen girls from Steubenville were caught and charged with threatening and menacing the victim for reporting the rape. This the culture of rape.
Recently, rape victim Lydia Cuomo took her case to the New York State legislature. In September, Ms. Cuomo was “brutalized” at gun point by a New York City police officer in an alley. The jury did not convict the officer of rape because of a lack of “credible evidence”. That lack of evidence extended to the fact that Ms. Cuomo could not remember the color a a nearby car and was sodomized (raped anally) rather than being raped vaginally. Ms. Cuomo was then further victimized by New York State Senator Catherine Young who had agreed to to introduce legislation that would close the loophole to categorize forced anal sex as rape. Senator Young received some push back from legal lobbyist who were concerned the language would create more difficulty obtaining rape conviction, so at the 11th hour, without informing Ms. Cuomo, she changed the language in her bill. Kudos to Ms. Cuomo for going public with her story and shame on Ms. Young for actions. This is the culture of rape.
Last November, in Texas, an 11 year old girl was gang raped by 20 men and teens. The defense attorney for one of the defendants, Jared Len Cruse suggested at the trial that it was the girl’s fault for attracting these men to rape her. How an 11-year-old could know enough to be a “temptress” for one much less 20 men unless she’s been repeatedly subjected to sexual abuse is one thing. But to suggest it in defense of the man who set her to be rape up is beyond absurd. Again, blame the victim; this is the culture of rape.
Yesterday, it was reported that a Swedish couple was attacked while biking in India; the man was beaten and tied up while his wife was gang raped. Local officials there are suggesting it was the woman’s fault (partially) for the attack; they were apparently guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and not alerting authorities to their presence in the province. While this part of India is known for being dangerous, this information is only known to locals; again, this is the culture of rape.
This was also the consensus in the Dehli gang rape case where a young woman was repeatedly beaten and raped on a bus by five men including the bus driver while traveling with a male companion; she subsequently died from her wounds. In Egypt, reporter, Lara Logan was repeatedly and brutally raped by men who were “celebrating” the resignation of Hosni Mubarak; she was ultimately saved by a group of women and 20 soldiers. It took over 20 people to intervene in her attack. This is the culture of rape.
The rape statistics in the United States alone are striking. According to the website, One in Four, 1 in 4 women in college have reported either surviving a rape or an attempted rape since their 14th birthday. That means, on average between the ages of 14 and 22, 15% of females have been raped and 12% have survived an attempted rape. According the to Center for Disease Control, based on a sample of 5,000 respondents, 20% reported being forced to submit to sexual intercourse against their will and 42% of respondents never informed anyone of the rape. This means by the time your daughter, sister, cousin, wife, niece, friend, neighbor, etc.gets to college, she has a 1 in 4 chance of either having already been raped or will be raped. And 42% of rape victims, she may not talk about it until years later.
For those who travel outside of the continental United States, a whopping 19%-28% of college age women report having been raped or having had a rape attempt take place in locations where they are typically they are treated much worse than here in America.
And unlike years past, where rape was a quiet thing to be covered up, where a victim might shower, cry, become depressed and withdrawn from the world while to cope and figure out how to make sense of something that feels like getting hit by mac truck, we now have social media and smart phones. In this way, young men are able to treat girls as less than human publicly and text, tweet, and invite public comment about it. And it’s become a joke, socially acceptable behavior among the teenage set and the victim gets to relive this over and over again. This also happened in Steubenville.
I recall dating a guy in my 20’s and we were talking about the notion of rape generally. His response was very a dismissive, “I know so many chicks that have been raped, sexually assaulted, or molested, what’s going on with y’all?” I remember being struck by the ‘what’s going on with y’all’ because in my mind, I wondered what the hell was wrong with the men in our society.
I am not always quick to blame the media and music’s sexualization of women (Lil’ Kim, Kim Karshashian, Nicki Minaj), but there is a there, there. Most recently, Lil’ Wayne released a video called Love Me. In this video, the women who “love him” are in cages and contraptions that are indicative of a BDSM culture. Seriously? You put non-human things in cages, you put animals in cages… The indication in this is that these women love him even while treated as sub-human, to be used sexually… Like the aforementioned women. The inference is that they invite this, they like this, they want this… That’s the culture of rape and misogyny.
Something has happened in our society. Somehow, we’ve come to a place where the general population thinks it’s okay to go beyond objectifying women and straight up not even seeing women as human. Women aren’t being treated as soulful creatures, rather they are being drugged up, literally pissed on, and fucked in the the worst and most demeaning way imaginable. Something has happened where we have society that appears to lack a collective consciousness and women are people who should be debased and discarded like shit on the bottom of a shoe.
The other important factor here is that many rapists do not define what they do as rape. According to One in Four, 8% of men surveyed admit to engaging in acts that meet the legal definition of rape or attempted rape. And among these respondents, 84% said what they did was definitely not rape. This means that there is a clear disconnect between what constitutes rape and what men perceive as rape. One in five men have reported being so aroused that they felt they couldn’t stop themselves from having intercourse with a female, even though she did not consent and 35% of men said they would engage in some degree of rape if they could be assured that they would not get caught or punished. (Is it me or is anyone else having a “what the fuck” moment here?)
We can all point to a number of things that are taking place in our society starting with a general sense of soceital decay, but somewhere, somehow, our boys are getting the message that this behavior is okay. And in the cases identified, this time they got caught, so chances are they were pushing those limits and boundaries on some other girl before and no one was saying anything, whether the girls silenced themselves or were silenced by others.
We have to empower our daughters to speak up about being raped. We have to give our girls the skill set, support, and resources to be outspoken bout being raped. We have to stop the stigma and the notion that somehow its the victims fault. We have to stop having pre-conceived notions of what a rape victim looks like, dresses like, or is like. We have to get angry, as men, as women, as parents, as lovers, as friends, as family members, as friends, as people who just give a damn about other human beings. We have to be present and mindful about comments are made in front of boys about females. My 10 year-old-daughter has been verbally assaulted by boys who “say suck my dick” and refer to girls as bitches with enough confidence and regularity that it’s clear those boys are learning it in their home environment. We have to instill in our kids a basic level of respect for each other as human beings. And we need to address this “pack” mentality so that we aren’t just having to address one rapist, but the rapists that are engaging in this behavior.
Across America, there will always be those towns and cities that have the elite athletes who are protected and heralded as the second coming of the messiah… And that’s fine. But these kids need to know about respect, accountability, and bullying… yes, bullying. Because the strong should not take advantage of the weak. Because men do not treat women like that. Because no one should feel intimidated by their peer group to engage in a gang rape. Because this culture of rape as it has evolved is sick and twisted in the worst way possible and continually morphing unless we stop it.
And because in college, I became part of that one in four club… and I will make damn sure it is not a club my daughter or nieces join.
“She got so raped…” That shit is not a fucking joke.