Recommended Reading: How a Victim-Blaming System Excuses Rape


“THE ASSUMPTION that rape is murky and hard to identify underlies the normal response–in which the rights and feelings of men accused of rape are elevated above the rights and needs of rape survivors.

The way in which college campuses handle sexual assault cases provides a vivid example of this. A man who is found to be responsible for a sexual assault is expelled in less than 15 percent of cases. Much more common sanctions include having to participate in alcohol awareness training; writing a letter of apology to the victim; having to take a women’s studies course; and other minimal punishments. Administrators are much more likely to approach these cases as “teachable moments”–in the process, they minimize the experience of rape and sexual assault for survivors.

The result is that rape becomes normalized–almost as if it’s the consequence of being a young woman, particularly a sexually active woman, in society today.

At least part of the assumption is that those who commit rape are bright young men whose lives shouldn’t be ruined by one “mistake.” But missing from the discussion is the impact that rape and sexual assault have on the victims themselves.

Many victims of rape leave school for fear of having to attend classes or live in dorms with their assailant. And women who report being sexually assaulted often find themselves victimized all over again by a criminal injustice system where they are treated as if they are responsible.

Even for those who don’t report sexual assaults (and the vast majority of women do not), there are consequences. Almost one-third of women who have been sexually assaulted will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or a major depressive episode during their lifetime. More widespread are the more common effects on self-esteem, the ability to trust, sexual functioning, sleep disorders and more. A majority live in fear of friends or relatives finding out what happened to them.

A real response to the epidemic of rape and sexual violence in society would put those experiences, endured by the victims, back at the center of the discussion. Such a response must reject any idea that there are gradations of assault, and that some can be more “legitimately” described as rape. And it must reject victim-blaming and the idea that it is a woman’s responsibility to prevent a rape or sexual assault.

Only then can we begin a real discussion about why some men rape and how the broader culture is responsible for making that acceptable.”

Read the full article on The Socialist Network.


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