The use of ignore in my last post might be wrong. Most Americans misunderstand rape.
This summer I was assisting with high school registration. My job was to make appointments with the parents of incoming Freshmen. Some calls were over quickly, and other calls were very conversational.
I had no problems with letting parents talk, most conversations were very enjoyable. There were a lot of subjects I had in common with the parents.
One parent, who recently switched to the night shift at her job, talked about the hard times she’d fallen upon, but she didn’t bemoan her situation. Instead, she remembers how lucky she was and there were people who were less fortunate than her. That’s the same mentality I have. I might be a lowly high school substitute still living with her parent yet there are people in the world who are in worse situations.
Then there was another parent. I asked her if she would like me to give her a summary of the school dress code. She told me that she was used to strict dress codes since her son’s middle school had one too.
The parent went on to talk about the kids she saw waiting for the bus when she went into work. She spoke of the types of clothes that the girls wore. I agreed with her that some of the clothing choices were unfortunate. Yet I think the students are unfortunate because the girls think dressing scantily, or in sheer clothing showcasing their animal print bras, gives them the attention they lack at home. Some think it’s normal to dress in tight, minimalistic clothes everyday because their mothers, sisters, and aunts dress similarly.
This parent didn’t share the same perspective. To use her exact quote, she said, It’s almost like these girls are asking for it.
She repeated a phrase that is overused and egregiously misused.
Maybe she sensed her comment went too far when I was completely silent. She quickly finished her business and we hung up. For my part, I was flabbergasted. I viewed the teenage girls’ fashion ensemble as a reflection of their home life. Never would I see it as asking for violent physical and emotional harm. The girls don’t get up in the morning, dress in their scant clothes, admire their mirrored reflection thinking that it was the perfect rape outfit.
The American – mostly global – misunderstanding of rape centers around the victim not the rapist. Most people think that women dress in a fashion that would gain less attention. Rape isn’t about what a person looks like.
As Tara Culp-Ressler states in her article:
The idea that [Rape is] about sexual desire. In fact, rape doesn’t happen because men are wildly attracted to beautiful women, even though that’s been society’s longstanding approach to female sexuality. Rape is about power and entitlement. That’s why teaching women to cover up isn’t actually an effective rape prevention strategy.
If rape involved the way a person dressed, then what about the rape of young boys? Should young boys stress a certain way, wear chastity underwear, and make sure they don’t draw attention?
Another rape article caught my attention today. This one involved a 16 year old girl who was viciously beat up, held to the ground, and raped. After I read Culp-Ressler’s article, I could see how this teen nightmare was about power and not how the girl looked.
Police say Montes asked the girl to Woolfork’s home, where they listened to music and watched TV until Woolfork, Singleton, Henry and Avery joined them from another part of the home and demanded that the girl have sex with “Jay” or face a beating.
When she refused, they punched her, kicked her and dragged her by the hair into the backyard, where they pushed her down stairs and smashed her head on the concrete.
When they dragged her back inside, Henry allegedly blocked the front door and said: “If you leave, I am going to f— you up!” She was next dragged into a bedroom, where the teens stripped off her clothes and held her down while Woolfork raped her.
The report says that after the assault, the girl was allowed to leave — minus her shoes — and she made her way to her grandmother’s nearby home.
A group of classmates told the 16 year old to have sex with Jay or face a beating. They didn’t say, have sex with Jay because he digs you. These students were out to prove they could force the 16 year old to do anything they wanted. If she didn’t comply with their demands, they would force her to submit to their power. What could she do against them? She was one girl against five or six classmates.
In this case, rape was just another malicious form of bullying. Bullying is about power too. Kids who are abused at home bully weaker children at school to make them feel better. The bully is under the control of their parents while the weaker classmate is under the control of the bully.
Changing the popular global understanding of rape is a step in the right direction. When people understand it’s the fault of the rapist and not the victim then we can better protect the victims.
There are very real ways to tackle rape culture. Sexual assault prevention advocates believe that it starts with comprehensive sex education, to help educate kids about how to recognize when someone is violating their consent. And when kids age, the education campaigns should continue. College activists are attempting to implement more bystander intervention programs to teach students how to get involved when they see something that might turn into a sexual assault. Strong criminal justice policies that make it easier for victims to report crimes, and that actually hold the perpetrators accountable for those crimes, are another important area ripe for policy change.