“Don’t wear headphones. Stay in well-populated areas. Don’t dress seductively.”
Declarations such as these may seem like helpful ways to prevent rape, when in all honesty, they merely create a false sense of security, as well as a means to unfairly blame a victim. They are tips on how avoid rape, which perpetuates the notion that victims are in some way responsible for what happens to them. Our society must stop fighting over “legitimate rape,” stop blaming the victims and work on actually combating this disgusting crime.
I recently asked a few friends, male and female, if their parents ever taught them that they should not steal or lie. They all said yes. I then asked them if their parents had ever told them, “Do not rape,” to which all but one said no. One stated that such talk was “not necessary.” The idea that rape does not need to be talked about is not unusual; we would like to believe that the people we know and the kids we raise would never rape someone, but this simply is not true.
A rapist can be a man or a woman; a victim can be a man or a woman. A rapist can be a stranger, a friend, a boyfriend or girlfriend or a husband or wife. There is not a single outfit in the world that will turn a normal respectable citizen into a rapist. If a person gave consent and later changed their mind and said no, it’s rape. There is no action committed, no outfit worn, no drink had, that can ever be used to blame a victim of rape. Rape is rape.
Such statements are constantly overshadowed by the stereotypes and myths of rape. The only way to combat destructive notions is to teach people, starting at a young age and throughout their lives, the facts about rape, and explain why myths are not only false, but also damaging and dangerous. It is not a black and white subject; the discussions must be in-depth and factual.
While some may say talking about rape with children is uncomfortable, it cannot be called unnecessary. With society pushing myths down our throats, we need parents, teachers and leaders to combat false notions by giving kids a proper factual foundation. We cannot simply hope that everyone will suddenly realize what constitutes rape and know everything there is to know about it. If everyone really did have a fully comprehensive, inherent understanding of rape, it would not be occurring at the rate it is.
In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study called National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which consisted of telephone surveys of a nationally representative sample of 16,507 adults. In 2011, CDC released its findings; out of the women surveyed one in five said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point in their life time. Out of the men surveyed, one in seven have experienced severe violence at the hands of an intimate partner and one in 71 had been raped.
No matter what stereotypes are out there, the numbers do not lie. The issue of rape must be tackled head on, in an accurate manner, with the use of education. Myths must be exposed and destroyed.