Men should be ashamed. Men should be ashamed of the way our culture blames women for rape. Saying: “she should not have been _____ (wearing that outfit, in that place, having a drink)” is blaming the victim for the crime of the perpetrator, as though it is up to the woman to avoid being raped because it’s natural for a man to rape. As though men cannot control themselves and must rape a woman whom they find attractive. Men, stand up for yourselves. Don’t let our culture spread these negative assumptions. It is not the natural state of a man to rape. Put the blame where it belongs. The one who rapes is the one to blame, not the victim. Victim-blaming must end. It is a culturally pervasive myth that rape is the fault of the victim by what they wore or where they were or what they did. Let’s shatter this myth. While we are at it here are a few more myths in need of shattering:
Myth: Men are the rapists, women are the victims.
Fact: While the highest number of sexual assault cases are of a man against a woman, women can commit rape and men can be raped.
Myth: Most sexual assaults are committed by a stranger.
Fact: About 80% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim such as a relative, friend or acquaintance. Rape can also occur in relationships and marriages–being married does not imply automatic consent. Each person in a relationship has the right to say “no” to sex at any time and have that no respected by the other person.
Myth: Rapes are committed in dark alleyways.
Fact: According to the FBI database 70% of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement happen in the home of the victim, offender, or another individual.
Myth: Only homosexual men rape boys.
Fact: Most men who abuse boys define themselves as heterosexual.
Myth: Sexual assault is something that happens to pretty, young women
Fact: Sexual assault is about power and control. Offenders look for people who are the most vulnerable to attack or who they believe they can have power over. Victims can range from very young to very old. 61% of rape victims were assaulted before 18 years of age. 34% of sexual assault victims are age 12 or younger.
We live in a rape culture. Women are told to dress attractively for men but if they get raped it’s their fault. Jokes about rape and degradation of women are common place. Our society holds up the “boys will be boys” mentality allowing men to abuse with little consequence. Many of our swear words have a sexual nature; most of those speak specifically to sexual violation. In movies, TV shows, and video games the idea of sexual assault has become so common place that in some video games a player can be rewarded for raping the enemy. The myths this society believes about rape, the blame that mostly lands on the victim and the trivialization of rape all work to perpetuate the occurrence of sexual assaults in our world.
To borrow from the Alcohols Anonymous 12 step program, first we must admit we have a problem. Awareness is the first step towards a better future. Each person can become more aware of the areas in our society that trivialize and normalize sexual assault. The first step is seeing: seeing how sexuality is portrayed in the media. Being aware of the images you see on a daily basis can help you to take a step back and recognize what messages are healthy and what messages are harmful. Next listen to the way sexual is spoken of both in the media and in daily life. This can help you become more aware of your own language. It seems like a minor thing but using sexually violent language trivializes sexual violence. Using sexually violent language perpetuates sexual violence in our culture by turning it into a joke. We may not be able to make the world perfect but we can certainly make it a safer place for our children by bringing awareness to issues like sexual assault.
The statistics in this article come from the Riverview Center which is a crisis center for victims of sexual assault in Dubuque, IA. For more information visit www.riverviewcenter.org.