Redefining “rape culture”

Editor’s note: This author has chosen to remain anonymous due to the personal and sensitive nature of the op-ed.

Rape culture is a term that has been thrown around a lot in recent months. News items like the Steubenville rape case and Daniel Tosh’s standup have created this idea that our society has become more accepting of rape, certainly not viewing it as a crime in the way theft or murder are viewed. When it is discussed, rape is talked about in an all-encompassing way, like the New Delhi cases that shed light on the way an entire country treats women through cultural and traditional systems long in place. When we perceive rape as a crime, it is extreme: photographs of an incapacitated girl put online, gang rape, police corruption. While these crimes are no doubt horrendous and fully deserve to be publicized, the sensationalism that surrounds them does more than create awareness; it has trained us to see rape in one way and one way only — a forceful, brutal assault, either fiercely protested against or performed upon someone with no agency.

This definition of rape culture, however, has isolated and ignored a large percentage of rape cases. These are the cases that never come to light because they are not sensational. They take place in the home, in a safe space, and are perpetrated by individuals who are known to the victim and often trusted. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, also known as RAINN, two-thirds of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. Four out of 10 cases take place in the victim’s home. In one out of three cases, the perpetrator is under the influence of some substance, be it drugs or alcohol. Slightly over half of all rape cases are reported to the police. These statistics show a pattern of shame and silence, notably among women who have been raped.

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