We all know what it is like to get sexually excited to the point where there is nothing we want more that the complete the sexual act. We are all able to choose to stop there and wait for the feeling to subside (which most of us have done at some point). In a typical respectful relationship, while the one partner may want to continue and feel resentful, they have no right to insist on any sexual acts to which the other partner has refused. Sexual offenders choose not to.
A woman need not be physically hurt in order for her to have been raped. Most men are physically stronger than most women and need not use violence to coerce a woman into doing what she is told to do. It is for this reason also that abusers seldom need to use force or even threaten force in order to ensure the submission of their child victims. It is not uncommon for a victim to be threatened with the safety of her/his loved ones (children, siblings etc.), many victims respond to this by sacrificing themselves in order to protect those that s/he cares about. A victim may also be so terrified (“paralysed with fear”) that s/he is unable to offer resistance. Weapons may be used to threaten her/him into submitting against her/his will. Rape very often includes threats on the victim’s life. Submission is often seen to be the only means of survival.
These myths have the effect of:
Stereotypes and myths about rape involve ideas about:
The Consequences of these myths and misconceptions
Consider a woman who walks to her car in a quiet parking lot, a man then rushes out of the shadows and presses a knife to her throat, he then forces her to engage in sexual intercourse with him, threatening to kill her if she struggles or screams.
Or a woman who wakes up in the early hours of the morning to find a man touching her leg. She struggles against him, he hits her repeatedly until she submits to sexual intercourse.
A family invite friends to celebrate the new year, one of the guests, who is intoxicated forces a young child to perform sexual acts with him.
These scenarios are relatively easy to describe as sexual offences and the victims would easily gain our sympathy. We may, however, still question why she had walked on her own to her car, or why she did not have burglar bars installed at her home. For the most part, however, we would be outraged and do whatever was possible to ensure that the perpetrator be brought to justice – as we should.
The question becomes somewhat more complex in a certain instances:
Where the perpetrator and victim knew each other prior to the attack
It is fairly commonly held that women will “cry rape” out of spite towards the accused (consider the recently scrapped cautionary rule in sexual offence cases), especially if there is any possibility that he had rejected her at a point in the past. While this is certainly a possibility, the frequency of this occurring is substantially less then many would like to believe. Consider the implications for a person who lays any charge concerning A sexual offence (being questioned by frequently unsympathetic police officials, enduring the medical examination for forensic evidence, the questioning of her character and morals by peers and community, the humiliation of cross examination by the defence attorney in court). These clearly act as a deterrent to the laying of false charges. The caution exercised to ensure that someone who is falsely accused of a sexual offence is not found guilty may be over exercised, with the consequence that offenders walk out of court with a not guilty verdict and are released into society where they may continue to commit sexual offences if they so wish. Instead of focussing only on the complainant’s reasons for making a false accusation, it would be beneficial to also consider, what the consequences of such an action would be on that person.
Because sexual offences between acquaintances is so common, we often hear of women who withdraw charges once they have been made. This leads to the common assumption that she laid a false charge. What we fail to consider is the influence that the existing relationship between the victim and the offender later has on her decision. The possibility of intimidation is increased when the accused and the complainant have a previous relationship of any nature and the societal pressure to discontinue with the case also increases. It is important that we consider these as possible factors before assuming that the complainant has been untruthful in her original allegation of a sexual offence.
In cases involving young women and girls
When hearing about an alleged sexual offence against a young woman we often immediately question what she may have done to cause the incident. Men are viewed as being at the mercy of these complaints in sexual matters. The perception is that a ‘healthy young man’ is provoked into performing a sexual act with the complainant through her behaviour or dress. This is not exclusive to younger women.
Where the complainant had consumed alcohol
We assume that a woman who consumes alcohol is in some way more responsible for sexual violence perpetrated against her than a woman who did not. This is based on the assumption that a respectable woman should not drink or become intoxicated this is not extended to men and is clearly biased. To say that by consuming alcohol a woman sends a message to men that she is sexually available, is ludicrous. Due to the effects of alcohol, an intoxicated woman may provide an easier target for a sexual offence than a woman who has not consumed alcohol.
The above factors often lead to the assumption that due to her behaviour or personality, the victim is not in a position to be outraged regarding the incident as sexual activity is a natural progression of those situations and relationships, when the issue of forced sexual activity is raised under those circumstances we tend to view these incidents as being less serious than those mentioned in the first group.
We often emphasise the behaviour and actions of the victim in these situations and focus our attention on what she did to provoke the accused and cause him to later insist on sexual activity regardless of her refusals. We fail to place the same emphasis on the actions of the accused. We fail to question his decision to disregard the wishes of the victim.
This takes the responsibility for the offence away from the offender and places it, instead, on the victim.
This compounds the trauma that the victim suffers on account of being violated and makes it more difficult for her overcome the effects that the sexual violation has on her life. No person is responsible for the sexual violence they experience. It is the person who chooses to violate who is at fault. It is the offender not the victim who is the cause of the sexual offence.
-Excerpts from an article written by Samantha Waterhouse
I might just copy and paste this so I can have this perfect answer ready when people say things like “but how does this “rape culture” actually affect women?” (via holdmecloser-tonydanza)
Rape culture is the reason I am so fucking paranoid.
Survivors range in age from infancy to old age, and their appearance is seldom a consideration. Assailants often choose victims who seem most vulnerable to attack: old persons, children physically or emotionally disabled persons, substance abusers, and street persons. Men are also attacked. This myth serves to only recognize a small number of women as “rapable”. Too many women are left out and run the risk o not having their claims of rape heard or taken seriously.
A Victim Services study found that emotional and practical support offered by family and friends does not necessarily speed the recovery of rape victims. However, when the people that a victim relies on behave in unsupportive or negative ways, the victim faces a longer, more difficult recovery process. These negative behaviors include worrying more about oneself that the victim, blaming the victim, withdrawing from the victim or behaving in a hostile manner, and attaching a stigma to the rape and demanding secrecy from the victim.
Survivors exhibit a spectrum of emotional responses to assault: calm, hysteria, laughter, anger, apathy, shock. Each survivor copes with the trauma of the assault in a different way. As a society we tend “learn” about rape victims and their responses from the media. The media shows a very, very narrow view of who victims (and perpetrators) of rape are and how they respond to rape. This narrow depiction of many womens’ lives and experiences serves to underestimate the prevalence of rape in our society.
Since rape is life-threatening and each rapist has his own pattern, the best thing a victim can do is follow her instincts and observe any cues from the rapist. If the victim escapes alive she has done the right thing.