We’ve all engaged in it in one way or another. Whether it was heeding our mother’s warnings to not show too much skin at parties, monitoring the alcohol consumption of female colleagues as a way of “ensuring their safety.” Or simply not speaking up when physically seeing or hearing about sexual harassment... we’ve all done it. We are all guilty of perpetuating rape culture.
“Rape culture” is a prevailing societal attitude that normalizes sexual harassment and assault.
For those unfamiliar with the term, “rape culture” is a prevailing societal attitude that normalizes sexual harassment and assault. In the wake of sexual assault allegations against high profile offenders, such as film producer Harvey Weinstein and a sadly large number of his colleagues, as well as offenders in Venture Capital, finance, and many other professions, a decade-old movement has recently emerged as a hashtag on social media.
#MeToo, and the followon #TimesUp has led to a rising number of rape and sexual assault survivors taking to social media to bring visibility to the pervasive existence of rape culture. It’s notable that most women report that they know someone who has been assaulted, but most men still don’t seem to know any assaulters.
As survivors are form a network of allies to expose the magnitude of the issue, I am bothered by this question: why must victims bear the burden of addressing this epidemic? Clearly, as Oprah Winfrey eloquently noted, we are all responsible.
This attitude that victims alone are responsible for addressing their own assaults underlines the culture of silence. It helps us all neglect the under-represented groups of victims – those without the financial means or eloquent voice to find justice – or future safety for themselves or their children.
It is noteworthy that not all victims of sexual assault and harassment are women. Because it is clearly a cultural favorable masculine trait to be physically strong and emotionally monolithic, the abuse of men, both heterosexual and homosexual has been swept under the rug even further than the abuse of women. In addition, for fear of misdirecting the focus of an epidemic that largely affects women, people are reluctant to include men in the discussion of sexual assault and harassment victims.
Our silence gives entitlement to perpetrators of these crimes.
Our compulsion to rationalize and downplay the severity of everyday harassment plays a large factor in the number of assaults that never get reported. Creating a stigma of shame for survivors who want to share their stories contributes to the number of victims who remain silenced and add a private and very misplaced shame to their suffering. And when our beloved television icons are outed as abusers and criminals, we, their fans, go out of our way to defend these people, not simply because we enjoy their art, but because it is painful to lose our heroes. Rather, it is easier for us, as a society, to question the credibility of the victim. And so, the cycle of lack of justice and shaming of the victim continues.
How many headlines on abuse will it take for us all to realize that we are complicit?
How many times must we read headlines about domestic abuse, rape, pedophilia, and substance abuse in Hollywood before we recognize that WE are complicit in perpetuating the lies that celebrities, who play our beloved and idyllic characters, cannot be flawed or disturbed human beings?
We live in a society where many women of all ages accuse one man of heinous sexual crimes and the public still not believe any one of them. The collective voice must exceed dozens or scores before we finally let the message sink in.
We live in a culture so convinced that masculinity is inherently so sexually aggressive to the point where there are those who believe that some men can’t help but rape. These same attitudes contribute to those who think men are incapable of being raped. What we as a society must learn is that anyone can be a victim and anyone can be a perpetrator.
We need to collectively stop condoning our own collective silence, which gives power to abusers. We need to stop questioning the credibility of victims. We need to reject discriminatory measures that don’t allow us to believe that people who are rich, gay, male, or trans can be victims. And finally, for those of us who have means and power, we need to move from voice to action. I salute the financially capable women who have capitalized the #timesup Fund to serve victims of rape and sexual abuse who do not have the means to pursue their cases.
We starts with me. I stand in solidarity with those who dawn the hashtags #MeToo and #timesup.