TW: rape, rape culture
The topic of rape culture has been a prevalent issue within our community for years. Although it is a pressing issue, the solution can often get blurred by abstruse definitions of what is or is not considered ‘rape’. With the influx of overlapping information on rape culture, it can feel like an overwhelming issue to tackle. However, there are steps we can all follow to start the undoing of rape culture. One of the first steps we can take is understanding the difference between rape and sex: consent.
Any form of sex without consent is rape. The definition of consent varies legally as each state has a different definition. However, the Rape and Incest National Network defines consent as “an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent should be clearly and freely communicated.” Anytime consent is not present, sexual activity should never occur. Understanding the importance of consent is the first step in respecting a partner’s boundaries. No one should be forced into anything they don’t want to do. Likewise, consent cannot be fully established if one party is intoxicated or unable to make a conscious decision. In order to create a healthy sexual environment, consent should be respected and established early on. Additionally, consent can be redacted at any time, either verbally or physically, such as hand gestures, or body language.
Holding others accountable
The only sole cause for rape is the rapist. Therefore, any perpetrator and abuser should be held to the appropriate consequences. The sad truth is the legal consequence for rape can vary between a fine or serving life in prison. Each state has a different guideline for the consequences of rape. Bottom line is, it all comes down to the judge handling the case. On the flip side, the average monetary cost per rape for survivors is $122,000–this includes expenses such as mental health care, forms of therapy, medical bills, or money lost from time taken off work. Our role in this aspect is to be aware of who we appoint as judges in our community and question whether we trust them to make the right decisions when presented these cases.
In terms of our smaller circles, it’s important to be supportive whenever possible and to hold others accountable. If a survivor comes forth about their story and it involves someone you know, you can make the conscious decision of not tolerating the abuser/rapist’s crime. If you feel comfortable, you can educate them on why what they did was wrong, otherwise do not feel obligated to school them on what should be blatantly known as right and wrong. Likewise, consequences should also follow false accusations. False accusations steal from the bravery it takes for a survivor to report or speak up about their experience. False accusations also only make up about 2-10% of all reports, meaning there is over a 90% chance that believing the survivor is the right thing to do.
If a survivor comes out about their story, the best way to support them is to believe them. This benefits both men and women. Survivors already have to relive their trauma when talking about their experience, and some have to manage triggers just to convince legal figures to take their reports seriously. The least we can do is foster an understanding environment to help survivors heal. It is also poor taste to use the word “accused” when referring to the rapist or abuser as it invalidates the survivor’s experience.
There are many different factors that contribute to rape culture, but it is now our job to consciously change this aspect of our community. We can make this change happen. It starts with you.