When a person is accused of murder, the judge asks the victim’s family what they did to prevent it or what they could have done to stop it from happening. When a person is accused of murder, they get a shorter sentence just because they made a wrong choice in the “heat” of the moment, and it was their first time, they did not know it was wrong. When a person is accused of murder, the victim is blamed because they were obviously asking for it, walking alone at night.
All of these situations would be unacceptable for someone accused of murder. So why does it happen in almost every sexual assault case?
Rape culture is defined by the English Oxford dictionary as “a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.” The social attitudes that minimize sexual assault are common. However U.S.News and World Report stated that the “rape culture epidemic doesn’t actually exist” in a 2017 article and was made up by “hysterical feminists.”
This view is hard to believe when qualified judges in the courtroom have asked rape survivors what they were wearing the night they were raped. We are a society that normalizes rape and sexual harassment. According to Time Magazine, 95 percent of rapists never spend a single day in jail for their crimes and, in 31 states, they can legally sue for custody of a child conceived through rape. Rape culture is not only evident in the statistics. You see it on the in the courtrooms, in the media and on the streets.
At parties women are grabbed, sneered at and looked over like objects or animals. However, they are expected to keep walking and ignore men for fear of provoking them. This common situation is sexual harassment, but it is such a normalized behavior that harassers do not realize they are breaking a law and no one stops them.
This normalization is exactly what the English Oxford dictionary includes in their definition of rape culture. It is seen in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” song, which Time described as mirroring the words of actual rapists, yet was still the No.1 song in the nation, in 2013 President Donald Trump was videotaped talking about how he sexually assaulted and sexually harassed women, but he was still elected to the highest office in the land. This is rape culture because it is not only the normalization of sexual assault and harassment, but it is also the idea that women should be taught how not to get raped instead of teaching men not to rape.
NPR broadcasted a talk by Jackson Katz at Miller University, where 400 women and men were in attendance. Katz asked the men in the room what they do every day to prevent themselves from being sexually assaulted and none of them answered, no one raised their hand. He then asked the women in the room the same question and “at least 30 women raised their hands.” One woman talked about holding her keys a certain way so she could defend herself. Katz then asked other women in the room if they do the same thing; at least 100 women raised their hands. This contrast demonstrates the steps that women in our country have to take to protect themselves when the law will not. Women should be allowed to walk down the street without being catcalled and men should be able to stand up to these catcallers and rapists without seeming weak.
The United States is a society where people are discouraged by their peers and by the media from reporting rape. It is a society where people do not speak out against repulsive behavior from their peers for fear of being labeled “weak.”
We live in a society where someone who has sexually assaulted and harassed women is still elected president. We are not a society that lets murderers run free, so we should work against being a society that lets rapists thrive without consequence.