“As soon as rape enters any kind of public discussion, so does the backlash,” Amanda Ruggeri writes in her narrative about rape culture and her personal account of her own rape.
The statement holds true for most women. Even in this century, where rape is expressly abhorred and discouraged, victim-blaming persists. Despite claims of rising statistics in rape reports, these reports are questioned and considered unreliable sources of information regarding rape culture due to the argument that several of the women who have reported have retracted their statements and that several others have admitted to false claims of rape. What many don’t understand is that there is more to the reports than just statistics and retraction statements.
Several of these women have had to retract statements in order to protect themselves, their families, their friends, and even the rapists themselves. This holds true even for male victims of rape.
The misogynistic questions and statements that are given out as soon as rape is discussed or reported also diminish the confidence of most women to speak out. The sad thing is, in discussions of rape and rape culture, it is almost always the victim’s fault. Statements like, “what were you wearing?” Or “maybe you were asking for it” perpetuate the stigma that rape victims associate when reporting rape cases. It is no better for male victims who are ridiculed as being less masculine because “rape just doesn’t happen to guys”.
As such, despite the statistics, rape victims are not speaking out as much as they’d want to. Why would they if the very social community they report to would condemn them for it? Why would they report if the families and friends they love would not believe them or, worse, ostracize them for it? Why would they report if the rapist is a respectable figure in the home (or in society) and “he just couldn’t do that”? Shame on you, ladies and gents, for speaking out the truth of your abuse. Shame on you, ladies and gents, for trying to fight for your rights.
A few weeks ago, the twitter hashtag #beenrapedneverreported spread like wildfilre. What started out as a platform for discussion regarding rape allegations against a CBC radio host, turned into a global discussion on why rape victims never report their stories to authorities, opting instead to share them on social media.
The goal is to encourage more women to speak out about the rape culture and limit the stigma associated with reporting on the issue. While several arguments have been put up regarding the effectivity of using twitter or social media to increase awareness and “stop” rape, many women still feel that speaking up anonymously or speaking up about it on twitter is a more viable option than actually reporting it to proper authorities.
The hashtag has been going around for almost two weeks now, and is still sparking some very good discussions.
Informed citizens make more educated decisions.
The discussions are fascinatingly educational. It is both sad and good that the twitter hashtag became global in the way that it did. Sad, because it reflects how much modern society has ignored the cries of several victims – leading most of them to never report on the crime for fear of being judged – to how very little has been done tp fight against it. Good, because it educates more people about the issue that must continue to be discussed if any solution is to be accomplished, if at all.
If one really thinks about it, most of the women in our lives have been victims of the rape culture in one way or another but many have refused to speak out or decided in the end to not to.
Even now, when most people could freely share thoughts and opinions on social media, several people still find it difficult to share news and articles regarding rape and the rape culture. Even if we call ourselves strong, independent, women, the fear could still cripple us. There’s the fear of judgment, harassment, and the fear of being attacked for speaking out. Even just a few minutes ago, I hesitated about sharing articles on Facebook regarding sexual harassment and abuse for fear of being judged as too uptight, preachy, too much of a killjoy, and for being an uppity feminist. While I have no qualms sharing articles like these on twitter and on this blog, the larger Facebook audience is intimidating because of the knowledge that the more people read your posts, the more they are susceptible of judging you for it. For discussions on rape, questions like “have you even been raped yourself?” are inevitable.
Whenever someone asks me this question, I can just smile.
I have personally never been a victim of rape, but it was close enough. Not a lot of my friends knew about it, and only my very immediate family knew about the story. And, even then, whenever I react regarding issues on rape and sexual abuse, they would question me and ask why I’m still “not over it” when it’s been a long time ago. I couldn’t necessarily blame them for thinking that way and for worrying about me. To them, they would very much to keep the wound closed, leave it in the past, and forget about it. It’s a coping mechanism. If it’s kept in the past long enough, and if it isn’t discussed, then it might be easier to get over it… But it isn’t.
Essentially, any discussion about rape shouldn’t be limited to victims or to those directly affected by the rape. Ideally, it should be a free discussion, focusing on the protection & assistance of rape victims and on the education of more people regarding rape & how to stop it.
Personally, I believe discussions should not be limited to how women and male victims could protect themselves against rape. This only puts the responsibility of protection and prevention on the victim. It makes it seem like rape is inevitable and that the best approach against it is for the victim is to deal with it. This should not be the case.
Instead, the best approach is to discourage the act of rape itself. It is important to actually establish that the act itself is wrong and masculinity has nothing to do with it. Victims should not be discouraged to speak out and law enforcement authorities should themselves avoid victim blaming, and instead assume the victim’s innocence (instead of having the victim prove their honesty and innocence before action could be taken).
This is important because these, essentially assert both men and women. Educating more people and decreasing the stigma against victims that is associated with it helps propagate the idea that real men do not rape women and that it is not less masculine for men to help fight against rape. It encourages more women, particularly the victims, to believe that not all men are inclined to rape and that they are as into the fight against rape as they are. Men could take on active roles in the protection of victims’ rights too, and they should be encouraged to do so.
For more information regarding the use of social media by several women in discussing rape and their fear of reporting, check out the hashtag on twitter.