Every person, regardless of their culture, education, socioeconomic status, religion, occupation, race, sexual orientation, gender, sexuality or privilege has the right to say no to unwanted sexual touching. Unfortunately, many of society’s views about women, sexuality and power are grounded in deeply ingrained notions of oppression, racism, sexism, hetero-sexism, homophobia and other forms of power. The result is the ever evolving myth and misconception that the victim/survivor is to blame.
These myths about sexual violence and abuse keep victims from speaking out, getting help and holding their perpetrators responsible for the assault. The truth is, no one consents to sexual assault.
Getting the facts and challenging those myths can be the first step in ending sexual violence, and finding ways to best support victims/survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
Understanding Rape Culture
Rape culture is a culture in which dominant ideas, social practices and media images condone sexual assault by viewing sexual violence as something that is normal and even expected. Rape Culture permeates various societal structures, including social institutions which represent a microcosm of our larger society. Rape culture sees that sexual violence is sustained by a society that both covers up and excuses sexual assault as well as places the fault of the assault on the survivor – often referred to as victim blaming. Rape Culture is perpetuated by jokes about rape; silence from institutions when allegations of sexual assault surface; teaching women not to get themselves raped with advice about clothing choices or walking alone, rather than teaching individuals about consent; and doubting survivors and reports of sexual assault.
Rape culture is also reflected in general attitudes about what sexual assault is or is not.
Myths about sexual violence indicate a lack of understanding about consent, and can indicate that sexual assaults under these circumstances are viewed as, at least partially, the survivor’s fault. These attitudes create a lack of confidence in reporting and going through a legal process, because survivors feel as though they will not be believed and will not receive justice, or they might even believe that they really did “ask for it.” By understanding rape culture, it will make problematic attitudes about sexual violence easier to address.
Some key reminders:
- Sexual assault is about power and control, it is not about attraction or desirability.
- When a person commits sexual assault, they are responsible. The victim is not responsible. One cannot consent to sexual assault.
- Sexual violence can happen to anyone. Sexual violence does not discriminate from religion, culture, affluence, privilege, location, sexual orientation, profession, marital status, education, age, gender or sex.