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Green 1 Kylie Green Dr. Wootton AP Lang P.2 06 June, 2017 Rape Culture on College Campuses “What were you wearing?”, “Did you lead him on?”, “Did you scream and try to fight back?”. Each of these statements has something in common; they are all examples of rape culture. Rape culture is the trivialization of rape and sexual assault. It includes jokes about rape, the objectification of women, and the tolerance of sexual assault. Rape culture is especially prominent on college campuses where young adults are experiencing freedom for the first time, and don’t always know how to handle the responsibility. Though it is known to be a significant issue, many believe rape culture institutes paranoia and spreads fear that rape commonly happens, leading to cases where people are falsely accused. Others believe that rape culture is dangerous and needs to be taken as such because it allows a horrifying offense to be belittled and therefore to happen more often. Though there are cases where people are falsely accused, those numbers are much smaller than the amount of times rape and sexual assault happens. Rape culture needs to be viewed as a serious offense on college campuses because it normalizes rape and sexual abuse. Rape culture is incredibly dangerous because it can result in victim blaming which creates a fear among victims making them apprehensive about coming forward when they are sexually assaulted or raped. Victim blaming is when fingers are pointed towards the victim, analyzing all the things they did wrong and how that may have led to their sexual assault, rather


Green 2 than focusing solely on the perpetrator. Victim blaming is a problem because according to the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, “[it] marginalizes the victim/survivor and make[s] it harder to come forward and report the abuse. If the survivor knows that you or society blames her for the abuse, s/he will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you,” (Rape Culture, Victim Blaming, and The Facts). It is evident that this is perilous to not only helping people who have been raped, but to rape statistics as well; it results in an immense number of rape and sexual assault cases going unreported. Victim blaming is a dangerous aspect of rape culture because allows people to believe that rape doesn’t happen as often as it does. It contributes to the idea that it only happens when the victim does something to bring the assault upon them self. Therefore, society believes if they don’t follow the same pattern (drinking, wearing provocative clothing, flirting, etcetera) they will not be raped. However, the reality is that a rapist is not looking for people following these “patterns”. They are looking for a vulnerable person – it doesn’t matter how that person is acting, or what they’re wearing. All they want is to take control of somebody. Victim blaming also results in the victims not wanting to come forward for fear they will be ridiculed by society. On The Guardian, Kayla Epstein wrote an article detailing several student’s experience with reporting sexual assault. An anonymous source named “R” stated, “the housing staff member that I spoke to told me that I deserved what I got and that I was asking for it ... for going out and drinking. After that I didn't really talk about it at all, because obviously I didn't get anywhere.” (Epstein). She initially felt the courage to go and talk to somebody about it, but after being blamed for being assaulted it resulted in her not wanting to talk about it anymore, which is the instance in so many cases. This form of rape culture is exceptionally cruel because it punishes the victim, leaving them even more traumatized. It leaves them feeling powerless and making it unlikely they would report the


Green 3 incident and fight against their rapist. This is also a major factor that plays into decreasing the number of rape cases that are reported and go to court, lowering the statistics on how often rape does happens. For that reason, rape culture needs to be taken seriously because it can drastically change how rape is seen and what is done to prevent it. If rape culture is taken seriously, and punished with harsher consequences, people will be less tolerant of it and see how often it happens. Rape culture allows for women to be objectified and for men to believe that it is okay to treat them as objects and not people. When a person is seen as an object instead of a human being, the human mind disregards the feelings and emotions of the person, and they truly believe it is okay to treat them as if they are nothing. This was a major reason why slavery went on for so long; African Americans were seen as animals, not humans, and were treated as such. Rape culture sends out this message: the purpose of a woman is for their body to be used, and that’s all they’re good for. An example of this objectification is “when an off-campus fraternity sends a party invitation to female freshmen, telling them to wear tight clothes and to ‘fuck off’ if they’re ‘a tease,’ that’s rape culture.” (New). This is an instance of something that happens often in fraternities all around the country. Women are reduced down to the clothing they wear, and their willingness to participate in sexual activities. It forces women to have to make a choice: not go to the party and risk being ridiculed and mocked, or go to the party and risk being harassed. It is not an easy decision for a young adult to have to make, especially in a stage of life where impressing the people around one seems so important. This is not the only example of fraternities objectifying women either. At Old Dominion University in Virginia a fraternity posted signs that read “’Rowdy and fun/ Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time,’ ‘Freshman daughter drop off,’ with an arrow pointing to Sigma Nu’s front door, and finally, ‘Go ahead and drop off mom


Green 4 too.’” (Carroll). Not only was there the objectification of the girls who go to the college, but their mothers as well. Mothers who are giving their money to a school that supports the fraternity. Actions like these prove that women, mothers and daughters alike, are only valued for their bodies. This is rape culture because it allows for women to be seen as means for satisfaction to men, and takes away their dignity and pride. This can be detrimental to a women’s view of herself, especially in the vulnerable stages of college years. It can lead to lowered selfconfidence which causes women to be less likely to say “no” when encouraged to preform sexual acts for fear of being ridiculed by their peers. A real problem arises from these situations of objectification because often it is not until after the sexual encounter takes place that the woman understands she did not feel as if she consented and will go report the assault. However, the perpetrator will say they could not have known she did not want it because she never explicitly said “no”. This is why so many cases of rape are hard to fight; the woman may realize too late that she did not consent to what happened but there is a lack of evidence, or blurred lines to what really happened. That, in turn, makes it much harder to convict anyone of committing a crime. Rape culture is very dangerous because it can lead to the objectification of women which teaches them that they are not worth anything, and often results in them realizing too late their ability to say “no” and defend themselves against rape and sexual assault. Though rape and sexual assault are serious issues that need to be dealt with, many believe that discussion of rape culture can lead to paranoia that results in false accusations and misunderstandings. There are instances in which the man didn’t fully understand that the woman was objecting to the sexual encounter and didn’t want it to happen. An example of this type of case was that of Caleb Warner, a student at University of North Dakota; “On January 27, 2010, University of North Dakota officials charged undergraduate Caleb Warner with sexually


Green 5 assaulting a fellow student. He insisted the encounter was consensual, but was found guilty by campus tribunal and thereupon expelled and banned from campus. A few months later, Warner received surprising news. The local police had determined not only that Warner was innocent, but that the alleged victim had deliberately falsified her charges,” (Sommer). Cases like this are often the bases for the argument that rape increases false accusations. Recognizing rape culture and drawing attention to it can cause paranoia such as this. Those who fight against the discussion on rape culture also argue that it can cause women to invalidate their own knowledge of the situation and follow the words of those who believe if a girl is drunk and has sex, it is constituted as rape. Christina Hoff Sommers, who believes discussing rape culture leads to paranoia, states: “Women’s activists have persuaded many young women that what they might have dismissed as a foolish drunken hookup was actually felony rape,”. It is a possibility that, after learning what rape culture and rape entails, many women start to shift their view points to align with the ideals of women’s activists. This causes a lot more hurt not only for the women who believes she was raped, but also for the man who never intended to do any harm. However, instances of false accusations and misunderstandings like this are so rare, it is not a valid enough argument to let go of the fight against rape culture. The truth is while ninety percent of rapes go unreported, only two percent of those that are reported are false reports. (Lee). Believing that false reports are more common than they really are plays into victim blaming and trivializing how often rape really happens. Not to mention, while discussing rape culture can and will change people’s view on what can be defined as rape, it is much more important that people stay educated on what rape culture and sexual assault are, and how they can combat them. Rape culture, rape, and sexual assault need to be viewed as incredibly damaging issues. Rape and


Green 6 sexual assault stay with the victims forever, and by trivializing these horrific crimes, rape culture is almost as bad as the crimes themselves. Rape culture can cause rape and sexual assault to be joked about, belittled, and understated. It causes victim-blaming and results in victims believing they did something that influenced the perpetrator to rape them. This can prevent them from coming forward and reporting the assault in fear of what society will say about them. It causes women to be objectified, and men to believe this type of behavior is acceptable and results in women not knowing they were raped until after it is too late. Overall, rape culture allows people to avoid talking about rape as a serious issue, and making it out to be something that rarely ever happens. Colleges need to take rape culture, rape, and sexual assault seriously and generate punishment with harsh consequences for their actions, that will give rise to rape culture being seen for what it really is and hopefully will stop how often it happens.


Green 7 Works Cited Carroll, Kelsey. "Fraternity Signs Promote Rape Culture, Elicit Outrage." Feminist Majority Foundation Blog. WordPress, 25 Aug. 2015. feminist.org/blog/index.php/2015/08/25/fraternity-signs-promote-rape-culture-elicitoutrage/ Accessed 04 June 2017. Epstein, Kayla. "'They Cared More about Him than Me': Real Stories of Reporting Campus Rape." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 10 June 2014. theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/10/real-stories-reporting-campus-rapeamerican-college-students Accessed 04 June 2017. Lee, Michelle Ye Hee. "The Truth about a Viral Graphic on Rape Statistics." The Washington Post. WP Company, 09 Dec. 2014. washingtonpost.com/news/factchecker/wp/2014/12/09/the-truth-about-a-viral-graphic-on-rape-statistics/? utm_term=.aabb598f49df. Accessed 29 May 2017. New, Jake. "Students Urge Colleges to Define 'rape Culture' in Their Sexual Assault Policies." Inside Higher Ed, 7 Nov. 2016. insidehighered.com/news/2016/11/07/students-urgecolleges-define-rape-culture-their-sexual-assault-policies. Accessed 25 Jan. 2017. "Rape Culture, Victim Blaming, and The Facts." Southern Connecticut State University. Southern Connecticut State University, n.d. southernct.edu/sexual-misconduct/facts.html Accessed 21 Sept. 2016. Sommers, Christina Hoff. "Rape Culture Is a 'Panic Where Paranoia, Censorship, and False Accusations Flourish.'" Time, 15 May 2014. time.com/100091/campus-sexual-assaultchristina-hoff-sommers/. Accessed 08 Dec. 2016.

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For my AP Language class, we each chose an issue at the beginning fo the year, and then spent all year researching and presenting on it. For...

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