Systemic Tolerance for Rape: History Repeats Itself and We Never Learn

Link to Huff Post Crime: Steubenville: "We're Sick and Tired of Rape Being Treated Like an Unavoidable Joke"

Link to Huff Post Crime: Steubenville: “We’re Sick and Tired of Rape Being Treated Like an Unavoidable Joke”

“This [Steubenville case] isn’t ‘just’ about alcohol or teens or dashed football aspirations. It has much broader implications about consent and what we are failing to teach children. Alcohol and drugs don’t turn people, primarily girls and women, into rape victims. Rapists do. And while we’d like to think these things can’t be avoided and are accidental, they can be avoided and are, in fact, rarely accidental at all. These two boys may not have set out to deliberately drug the girl in question, or get her intoxicated for their purposes, but they took deliberate and aggressive advantage of the fact that she was drunk to the point of obvious and witnessed incoherence. This is done regularly with malice. Systemic tolerance for rape means they have traditionally gotten away with these crimes. While teaching people about consent isn’t going to change the behavior of predatory serial rapists, it will cultivate a culture that encourages effective bystander intervention and teaches both women and men how to reduce risk.” -Soraya Chemaly (Huff Post linked below)

The following is an article entitled “Rape, Sexual Assault, and Consent”, written by Justin Holcomb. You can view the original source via the link below.

“There have been numerous major stories in the news recently involving rape and sexual assault:

  • In New Delhi, India, a 23-year-old woman died in the hospital after being attacked and gang-raped by six men. The assault, which occurred in India’s “rape capital,” sparked violent demonstrations against the prevalence of rape and the lack of prosecution from the government.
  • An international child sexual abuse operation resulted in the arrest of 245 suspects. Law enforcement found 123 victims of child exploitation, including five under the age of 3 and nine between age 4 and 6.
  • In Steubenville, Ohio, two high-school football players have been charged with raping a teenage girl at party while she was unconscious. The story is making headlines after Anonymous released photos and video of teenagers laughing about the assault with jokes like, “She is so raped right now.”

Tragically, incidences of sexual violence like these are all too common. In fact, the problem is actually worse than you might think from the news stories: sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes, and less than 40 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement.

This is because of the unique shame, fear, and embarrassment that sexual assault victims experience. All of this is then compounded by our culture of victim-blaming in which rape and assault victims are often said to be “asking for it” by dressing too provocatively, going out alone too late at night, or drinking too much. The victim-blaming impulse shows up every time these stories appear. For example, in the Ohio case, some residents blamed the girl, saying, “She put the football team in a bad light and put herself in a position to be violated.”

Defining assault and consent

With the prevalence of sexual violence, it is important to have a clear definition of sexual assault and consent. Many victims are not sure if what happened to them was assault, and the shame and pressure to remain silent lead to a recurring cycle of traumatization.

“Sexual assault” is the current legal term that replaced the narrow definition of rape, though some states use the terms interchangeably. In Rid of My Disgrace, a book I wrote with my wife, our definition of sexual assault is: any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.

A key concept in all of these cases of sexual assault is that the victim did not consent to the sexual contact.

What is consent?

Consent is when an individual is freely able to make a choice based upon respect and equal power, and with the understanding that there is the freedom to change her or his mind at any time. To judge whether a sexual act is assault, we ask: (1) Are both people old enough to consent? (2) Do both people have the capacity to consent? (3) Did both agree to the sexual contact? If any of these are answered “no,” it is likely that sexual assault has occurred.

Sexual assault affects millions of women, men, and children worldwide. Though its prevalence is difficult to determine exactly (because of under-reporting), the statistics are still overwhelmingly high: One in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetimes.

According to the Bureau of Justice, women 16 to 19 years old have the highest rate of sexual victimization of any age group. Statistics show that 15 percent of sexual assault victims are under age 12 years old, 29 percent are ages 12 to 17, and 80 percent are under age 30. The highest risk years are ages 12 to 34, and girls ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault.

Shedding light on the truth

While these stories of rape and assault are horrifying, one bright spot is that violence like this, which is common and usually kept quiet, is finally getting widespread attention in the news and the minds of the general public.

For victims, acknowledging and naming what happened to you is an important step in the healing process. For everyone else, greater awareness of the culture of violence and exploitation of women and children is essential so we can work to fight this evil and care for those around us who have been victimized.

Further reading

We want to serve you with free resources to help you understand the epidemic of sexual assault and care for victims. You can read chapters 1, 2, and 10 from our book, Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault. Additionally, are some other resources that may be helpful:

The entirety of the articles and resources in the sexual assault category here on Resurgence.”

Link to "Rape, Sexual Assault, and Consent" by Justin Holcomb
Link to “Rape, Sexual Assault, and Consent” by Justin Holcomb

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