Breaking the silence: We need to change the way we think about rape
by Will Queen and Verde Magazine
Published April 8, 2013
The following story appeared in Verde Magazine, published on April 9, 2013. The views and opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily representative of that of The Paly Voice or any of its staff members. This story appears on The Paly Voice per the request of Verde Magazine.
ON AUG. 11, 2012 in Steubenville, Ohio, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, two members of the Steubenville High School football team, brought a drunk 16-year-old girl to several parties and raped her.
On March 17, 2013, Mays and Richmond were convicted of rape. Mays is also guilty of distributing a nude photo of her. Mays will serve at least two years in juvenile detention, while Richmond will spend at least one, and both need to register as sex offenders.
But somehow, some elements of the mainstream media has sympathized with the rapists. Many blamed the girl, saying she should not have gone to the party and gotten drunk.
Such statements create an incredibly negative environment for rape survivors, which makes it next to impossible to recover from the traumatic event.
Rape victims are often afraid or ashamed to come forward and tell someone that they have been raped for fear of getting judged as a lesser person because they are seen as promiscuous, as if they somehow could have caused the rape.
Rape is, by definition an act in which someone is forced to have sex against their will. America needs to reassess the way it views and deals with rape, because without reform, the situation will only get worse.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one in six women has been a victim of rape or an attempted rape in her lifetime, and one in 33 men; 17 million women and 2.7 million men in this country have been raped or sexually assaulted. Rape is not specific to a single area or group of people.
Out of every 100 rapes, only 46 are reported to the police. Of the 46 that are reported, only 12 of the reported rapes will lead to an arrest. Only nine of those arrests will lead to a prosecution. Only five of those prosecutions will lead to a felony conviction. Out of those five convictions, only three of the rapists will ever spend time behind bars, according to RAINN.
Even more terrifying is that many of these are cases of acquaintance rape, or as it is better known, date rape. According to research conducted by the Roger Williams University, 84 percent of rape survivors in the United States knew their assailant prior to the rape, and 57 percent of those rapes occurred during a date.
In other words, most rapists get away with it.
As a guy, the issue is a little bit difficult to deal with. In addressing the situation, my gender does not have the innocence that the female gender holds, as rapes are usually committed by males, not females. Before I delve into the subject, I need to make something very clear.
Not all men are bad. There is a statement that compares a man raping a woman to a shark attacking its prey.
For this argument to be true, all men would rape women. This would mean that all men are thoughtless beasts who are unable to control themselves and will commit rape without pause.
On top of the entirely untrue nature of the argument, it hinders any progress in the fight against rape. If we just tell ourselves “Oh well, what can you do,” we are saying that rape is inevitable. We are accepting it as a fact of life. We need to do the exact opposite.
To fight the terrible situation, we also need to readdress the usage of the word “rape.”
The word “rape” has almost taken on a different meaning due to how much the word is thrown around. People say the word “rape” to replace words like ‘beat.” Somehow “rape” has become slang, and because it is used in less serious situations, some of the power of the word is taken away.
Victims are too afraid to tell anyone, and most people consider rape a taboo subject. To face the problem of rape, we need to remove the taboo and open the floodgates for growth and progression in the prevention of rape. There are an amazing few who reach out to rape survivors to help them, but the majority of our country does not take a stand on the subject.
Saying things like “rape is bad” to feel more personally accomplished does not stop a person from raping someone and does not heal the wounds of a survivor. That approach is passive.
We as a society need to make an active attempt to make the subject of discussing and dealing with the recovery from rape less awkward and shameful, because the survivors didn’t do anything wrong.
Rape is an epidemic in our society, one that somehow has gone mostly under the radar. If as many people in this country were suffering from a disease as the number who have been raped, there would be a media panic. Yet, there isn’t one.
The subject needs to become something that can be discussed constructively, and it cannot be treated as a joke. It cannot be something that people are afraid of. If everyone stays silent, rape will continue to happen with nothing to stop it. People need to break the taboo of discussing rape, because as soon as enough people join the cause, there will be a revolution, and rape will no longer define who people are.
If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, you don’t have to keep quiet.
Get help by calling RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE,
the local YWCA of Silicon Valley’s crisis hotline 650.493.7273 or
Adolescent Counseling Services at 650.883.4244.
“You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped” by Lisie Sabbag
From a different perspective: a discussion with Paly guys by Lisie Sabbag
Taking it Seriously: Ever made a rape joke? This column is for you by Savannah Cordova
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For a copy of the letter sent to faculty before the release of this issue, click here