As an enthusiastic watcher of the Oscars (I haven’t missed one since the 84th), it was pretty obvious that I spent my February 29th curled up in front of my TV with specific instructions given to my mom to not disturb me for any reason whatsoever.
The Oscars were great, they were pretty educational, but I am not here to talk about highlights of my favorite award show. I am here to talk about one specific issue that I have always been very passionate about: ending rape culture.
Lady Gaga’s performance of her song, ‘Till It Happens to You,’ nearly brought tears to my eyes. The bravery shown by all the sexual assault survivors when they came on the stage with supportive messages written on their hands was absolutely beautiful.
‘Till It Happens to You,’ was written for the Oscar nominated movie, ‘The Hunting Ground,’ (which is an amazing movie, by the way) to spread awareness about the increasing rate of sexual assault against women on college campuses.
It’s overwhelming and shocking to know that so many women do not feel safe inside the place where they go to receive education, where they go to build a future for themselves.
It was reported that one in five women had been a victim of sexual assault on college campus in 2015 in the United States. That is a terrifyingly large number.
It makes you wonder about the safety of women in one of the most progressive countries of the world. The United States of America proudly leads the world’s economy and dominates international organizations, but yet it fails to provide safety to more than half of its population.
The issue regarding sexual violence against women is, by all means, not directed to USA only. In fact UK and a majority of the Asian countries are also experiencing rape as a growing epidemic.
We have to create an environment where women (and men) feel safe so that they can be more productive, healthy and happy. Safety is one of the most important aspects of life. You cannot expect a person to work to their full potential in a place where they do not feel safe.
We must all stand together to bring an end to rape culture. But for that, we should know what rape culture is.
Rape culture sprouts mainly from victim blaming. A lot of the sexual assault survivors face a few people who ardently believe that the victim herself is responsible for what happened to her. Question like, “Did you invite him into your house?” “What dress were you wearing?” “Were you drunk?” are thrown at the survivor. And there are many people out there who think that these questions are actually relevant and legitimate.
Well guess what, it doesn’t matter what she was wearing, where she was going, who she was going with or whether she had been drinking or not (incapacitated rape does exist!), rape is rape and is always equally punishable under any circumstances.
Nearly 19% of freshmen women said that they had been a victim of attempted or completed rape, either by force or while they were incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Why does victim blaming occur?
Rape victims aren’t the only assault victims that are blamed for the crime that was committed against them. Many black and Hispanic people are blamed for theft that happened on their property or held accountable for the kidnap of their child.
However, in the same situation, white men and women have a much lower chance of being blamed. This seems to show a discriminatory pattern among police officers and court verdicts.
For the same reasons women (and men) are blamed for their sexual assault so as to relieve the sex offender from their due punishment. And even in this case, reports show that men of color are much more likely of being charged of sexual assault than white men.
This basically means that if you are a white man, getting away with crime is comparatively much easier for you.
Rape cases in college campuses are largely underreported because of the universities’ want to protect their reputation rather than their students. Reports have shown that many rapes that occurred on campus were by members of fraternities who were legacies and contributed a lot to the universities’ financial funding and rankings.
Even if the woman does report her assault to campus security, it is very likely that her report would not be taken seriously and casually dismissed. And all of this is done solely to protect the university from media criticism.
According to a 2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics/Department of Justice study, fewer than 5 percent of completed and attempted rapes of women in college were reported to law enforcement officials, and that number drops still lower for other forms of sexual assault.
Victim blaming is the rawest form of discrimination, and here’s why:
Women are often blamed for their sexual assault when the reported sex offender is an accredited white male.
Men are blamed for their sexual assault because society thinks that they should be strong and they should have fought against their rapist; if they didn’t then they had been ‘asking for it.’ This is sexism at it’ finest.
Women of color are more likely to be blamed than white women because of prevalent racism.
What can we do to stop this heinous crime?
Too often, the shame that people associate with rape leads the victim to not speak out about the crime. Our society brutally stigmatizes rape victims, and this is something that we need to change. We must teach others to not rape rather than how to prevent getting raped. This can be done by encouraging open discussions and incorporating the importance of consent into every sex education class in high school as well as college.
We must provide a safe platform where victims can talk about their sexual assault and where they feel that they can be heard.
It is very important for our voices to be heard. We are women and we are largely affected by these crimes and we will not stand for it. We must reach out to others and give a voice to all those people out there who are constantly being silenced.