Examples of Rape Culture
Choma, before accepting an invitation to an event like a party, how many times have you first considered where the place is, what time of day you have to be there and what time you have to leave that destination to make sure that you arrive safely back home? If you can recall the number of times you’ve been told to be alert at all times when going out; to make sure that what you wear doesn’t create attention being drawn to your body and to never walk alone at night so that you can prevent being attacked, I’m sure it’s more times than you can actually remember. This is called rape culture. Rape culture is a set of beliefs where sexual violence like rape encourages (usually) males to be sexually aggressive towards (usually) women, therefore allowing violence against women to happen. So choma, rape culture is the ways in which society makes light of or condones rape and other forms of sexual violence. Rape culture includes a variety of examples.
Victim blaming is when a victim of rape is told to take some responsibility for the crime; that both the victim and the abuser should be equally blamed for the crime. Examples of victim blaming include not taking an attack of the victim by a teacher seriously simply because she looked too mature, questioning whether the amount of alcohol she drank at a party is the reason she was raped or criticising a victim for what she was wearing during the time of the abuse. Choma, it’s not the victim’s fault or responsibility to fix what happened, the fault lies completely with the abuser. Once we start forcing the victim to share the responsibility of the crime, we are allowing the abuser to commit the abuse and we are telling the abuser that they can avoid taking any accountability for their actions. The longer people stay neutral about the abuse, meaning that both the abuser and the victim are given the same level of blame for the abuse, the harder it will be for the surviving victim to get help.
Belittling sexual assault
Have you ever heard of this saying “Boys will be boys”? This saying is used to convince people that it’s to be expected for boys and men to behave in a childish or mischievous way, that it shouldn’t be a surprise when we hear of stories where boys do silly things like pulling up a girl’s skirt, convincing girls that boys who hit them means they like them or grabbing someone’s arm without their consent. By not respecting someone’s physical space, we encourage or excuse bad behaviour. So when a girl or woman speaks up about being fondled by a boy or man, we excuse that bad behaviour done by the perpetrator, trivializing sexual assault. Just like girls and women, boys and men are perfectly capable of respecting people’s bodies. The more boys and men are told that their bad behaviour can be excused, the more they believe they don’t have to control their impulses and are above the law, including getting away with rape.
Assuming that men who get raped are weak or men don’t get raped
Rape isn’t exclusively committed by men, women have been reported to also be rapists choma. Sexual violence is one of the most horrific forms of abuse, a form used to disempower the victim, so when a man reports such abuse, they are assumed to be vulnerable or weak and are normally teased about being raped. This may be the reason some male rape victims never report the abuse. The same way male rapists are treated should be the same way female rapists are treated too, in terms of punishment.
Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape
Imagine a place where perpetrators are told that they should stop attacking victims, instead of blaming the victim for the crime. By focusing on having women change their behaviour to protect themselves, we create a culture of fear amongst women. This also creates a culture of suspicion amongst both men and women because we end up believing that men are naturally violent and women intentionally go out into the world to provoke men into raping them. We need to put more responsibility on the perpetrators because they are, after all, the ones who cause the crime.
Ways we can address rape culture
- Stop blaming the victim for a crime they didn’t commit and understand that the victim did not cause the attack/abuse.
- Put more responsibility on the perpetrators.
- Be supportive when a friend says they’ve been raped.
- Respect people’s boundaries, including their physical space, by learning to communicate first and learning how to ask for consent. Understand that lack of consent is the same as rape.
- Not encourage/excuse boys and men to get away with bad behaviour.
- Stop condemning men who report being raped.
When we normalize sexual violence choma, we slowly accept and create a rape culture. If South African children continue to be raised by people who believe that it’s for girls and women to be told to check their behaviour or to change themselves in order to protect themselves from boys and men, then unfortunately choma rape culture in this country will continue for many years to come and many women and girls will not enjoy the simple freedom of movement of going anywhere, anytime.
Choma, if you have been raped, know that it’s not your fault and don’t be silent about it. Speak to someone you trust to get help.
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