By Maria Papagiannopoulou,
“Boys will be boys”.
“She was drunk”.
“But she wore a short dress”.
“Women say ‘no’, but they actually mean ‘yes’”.
Rape culture is widespread. It’s ingrained in the way we think, talk, and walk about. Rape culture is still rooted in patriarchal values, influence, and control, regardless of the context. Rape culture is the social framework that allows for both the normalization and justification of sexual harassment, which is fueled by persistent gender differences and attitudes towards gender and sexuality. The first move in dismantling rape culture is to name it.
Every day, we have the chance to analyze our behavior and beliefs for prejudices that enable rape culture to thrive. We should all take steps to combat rape culture from our views about gender identities to the policies we promote in our societies.
There are some ways to stand against rape culture:
- Speak out against the root causes
Masculinity sees aggression and supremacy as “powerful” and “male,” and when women and girls are undervalued, rape culture thrives. It’s also based on victim-blaming, which implies that an attack is the fault of the victim rather than the attacker. The victim’s sobriety, clothing, and sexuality are meaningless when addressing instances of sexual assault. Instead, refute the notion that men and boys must gain control by abuse and impact negatively on sex as a right.
- Redefine masculinity
Examine what masculinity means to you and how you demonstrate it. Men and boys (as well as women and girls) may use self-reflection, group discussions, and creative expression to explore and redefine masculinities based on feminist values.
- Stop victim-blaming
We can forget that the words and phrases we use every day form our reality because language is deeply rooted in culture. Rape-affirming beliefs are embedded in our language: “She was asking for it”. It is part of popular song lyrics: “I know you want it”. It is normalized in pop culture and the media by objectifying women and calling them names. You have the power to reject victim-blaming rhetoric and songs that objectify women and justify sexual abuse. It is not an invitation to rape a woman based on what she is wearing, what she has consumed, and where she was at a particular time.
- Have zero tolerance
Create zero-tolerance policies for sexual harassment and abuse in the places where you live, work, and play. Leaders must make it clear that they are committed to enforcing a zero-tolerance policy, which must be followed on a daily basis.
- Broadening your understanding of rape culture
Rape culture takes multiple forms across time and environments. It’s important to understand that rape culture encompasses more than just a guy raping a woman when she’s out late at night. Rape culture, for example, includes a variety of negative activities that deprive women and girls of their autonomy and rights, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. We should understand the factors that contribute to rape culture as well as the misconceptions that accompany it. Although no one can deny that rape is wrong, sexual assault and sexual abuse are normalized and trivialized by words, acts, and inaction, leading us down a slippery slope of rape culture.
- Take an intersectional approach
Regardless of gender identity, sexuality, economic status, race, religion or age rape culture affects us all. Rooting it out entails letting go of rigid gender and sexuality concepts that hinder a person’s ability to identify and express themselves. Women’s susceptibility to violence is increased by such traits such as sexual identity, disability status, or race, as well as certain contextual factors. Individuals who identify as LGBTQI can be subjected to “corrective rape”, in which the attacker tries to force the survivor to adhere to sexual and gender norms. Discrimination towards women and girls is common during humanitarian crises, which also exacerbates sexual abuse.
- Know the history of rape culture
Throughout history, rape has been used as a tool of war and injustice. It’s been used to oppress women and minorities, as well as ethnic cleansing and genocide. This does not have any fast reads. You can begin by learning about sexual violence’s use in past and recent conflicts, such as the DRC’s civil war, Guatemala’s civil war, and the Kosovo conflict.
- Invest in women
Donate to organizations that help survivors, empower women, and encourage acceptance of all gender identities and sexualities.
- Listen to survivors
In the era of #MeToo, #TimesUp, #NiUnaMenos, #BalanceTonPorc, and other online movements, survivors of violence are speaking out more than ever before. Listen to their experiences, read stories of survivors and activists around the globe, and follow #OrangeTheWorld and #GenerationEquality on social media. Don’t say: “Why didn’t she leave?”, do say: “We hear you. We see you. We believe you”.
- Don’t laugh at rape
Rape is never a laugh-out-loud situation. Sexual harassment is delegitimized by rape jokes, making it more difficult for victims to speak up when their consent is violated. It is not appropriate to make jokes that normalize and justify sexual harassment. Speak it out loud!
- Get involved
The absence or lack of implementation of legislation addressing violence against women, as well as patriarchal laws on land ownership, marriage, divorce, and child custody, keep rape culture alive. See what your country is doing to protect women and girls by looking at the global report on violence against women. Engage with your leaders to ensure that policies that encourage gender equality are implemented.
- End impunity
Victims of rape must be kept accountable in order to put an end to the culture of rape. We accept these actions as crimes and send a clear message of zero tolerance by pursuing sexual assault cases. Fight for justice and transparency everywhere you see resistance to legal penalties for criminals.
- Be an active bystander
Non-consensual or abusive behavior against women is surprisingly common, and we may be witnesses to it. Intervening as an active bystander sends a message to the attacker that their actions are unethical, and it can save someone’s life. First, evaluate the situation and see what kind of assistance, if any, is required. You may be able to aid the victim of sexual assault by asking how they’re doing or whether they need assistance, or by reporting the incident, creating distractions to mitigate the situation, or making a brief and concise comment directly to the suspect, such as: “‘I’m unhappy with what you’re doing”.
- Educate the next generation
It is in our hands to empower the world’s future feminists. Children are exposed to gender roles and violent ideals in the media, on the streets, and at school. Make it clear to your children that your home is a healthy place for them to be themselves. Encourage them to make their own decisions and instill the value of consent in them at a young age.
- Start or –join in – a conversation
It will take all of us to stand together against rape culture, whether it’s organizing a discussion club to unpack the definition of masculinity, fundraising for a women’s rights group, or joining together to condemn rape-affirming decisions and policies.
- Johnson, N., & Johnson, D. (2017). An Empirical Exploration Into the Measurement of Rape Culture. Journal Of Interpersonal Violence, 36(1-2), NP70-NP95. doi: 10.1177/0886260517732347