Rape Culture in the US

If you’ve been following the news or have been on the Internet at all recently, I’m sure you have seen the allegations of sexual assault and harassment that have recently been brought up against Harvey Weinstein.  Hollywood’s “open secret” is out. 

For anyone who hasn’t heard about the scandal, I would recommend reading this NY Times article about it or just google Harvey Weinstein to stay up to date with the countless actresses stepping forward to share their stories of assault and harassment, either by Harvey or just in the industry in general.  Some of these women include Rose McGowan, Kate Beckinsale, Angelina Jolie, and Cara Delavigne. Here's a complete list of allegations as of October 13.  

As the allegations come out, countless people are asking how this stayed quiet for so long.  So many people knew about Weinstein, but his power in Hollywood prevented people from speaking out for fear of damaging their career.  So many just accepted this abuse of power as a part of the industry and society. 

These allegations are huge. There are countless people involved. A whole industry is tainted with Weinstein’s behavior.  These incidents are a prime example of how rape culture is an epidemic in the US that we can’t just keep sweeping under the rug. 

Rape culture is a term used to describe a society which is characterized by normalizing rape and sexual assault through such behaviors as “victim blaming, slut shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape.” Sound familiar? Think of Lindsay Lohan defending Weinstein, the infamous Brock Turner case, and even the problems that our own campus has faced in the past when dealing with sexual assault

As a college student, you may be reading these reports and, and while you feel terrible for these women, you might also grateful that it doesn’t directly affect you.  But it does. This involves you.  As long as people like Harvey Weinstein exist in positions of power in our society and go without punishment, we will never be able to move beyond the culture of fear that prevents women from walking outside at night, makes it necessary to invent nail polish that tests drinks for rape drugs, and doesn’t teach men that any kind sexual assault or harassment (yes, including cat-calling and groping) is not okay. 

I’m a first-year and as I went through orientation, I was happy to see how much Title IX was mentioned and how it seemed to matter to the administration.  However, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is rolling back Title IX regulations to protect those “wrongfully accused,” despite the fact that many social scientists estimate that only between 2 and 8% are falsely reported.  Not to mention the large number of rape cases that go unreported each year.  I’m not saying there shouldn’t be protections in place for accused, but there don’t need to be more obstacles for women and men that are reporting sexual assault (just look at this horrifying case from the University of Alabama to see how difficult the process of reporting a rape can be in some places in the US). 

Harvey Weinstein is one of many sexual abusers in the US. Now is not the time to speak against sexual assault and the prevailing rape culture in our country.  Read the allegations against Weinstein and others, stay informed, and stay safe. Stop trivializing rape and blaming victims. Support survivors. Please, do your part to put an end to rape culture on this campus and worldwide.