Rape Culture- Essay 2 in BHSEC’s Rape and Assault Collection

There are certain things that we hear about throughout our lives, and we know they are real, but we don’t truly comprehend how real they are. Although it would be nice to discern hardship by reading about it, or by listening to people talk about their experiences, we are a self-absorbed species. We perceive the world through the lens of our own experiences, and this hinders us from relating to people who we differ from. Ultimately, we are only mindful of the hardships that we have experienced first hand. I’ve always considered myself fairly empathetic, but I’ve learned that the best listener may never be able to perceive the most seemingly trivial pain. We cannot fathom the severity of anything until it applies to us directly. We cannot judge people, because each person is composed of different experiences that create their identity. I realized how hard it is to understand other people’s experiences, when I felt like no one would ever understand what I had experienced. No matter how clearly I described the fear that penetrated each bone in my body while it was happening, and the disbelief and powerlessness I experienced right after, no one could play it over and over in their minds as easily as I could. No one could understand how this was the tip of the iceberg- why this broke me in half the way that it did. I was alone, trapped in an indelible memory.

I was tempted not to call it rape. When he told me that he thought I wanted it, for a second, I considered that I made it seem that way. I thought, maybe I should have been clearer. But then I thought, how much clearer could I have been, I said no… I said stop… He told me that I shouldn’t let something so little ruin “what we have,” so for a moment I thought that I was being weak, and that I was pitying myself. I told him that he violated my body and didn’t take me seriously, and he told me that I could have pushed him away. He told me that if he knew I would react this way, he would have never done it. Implying that rape is acceptable, as long as the girl doesn’t react. That’s when I started to think, maybe I should let this go. If I don’t call this rape, if I call this a miscommunication, then I won’t have to suffer. I thought to myself, I’m strong enough to pretend this didn’t happen and go on with my life. Me and him have been hooking up for the past month, so it was normal for this to happen… right? Thankfully, I now realize that I am a victim of rape culture.

Most people have heard of rape, but “rape culture” is something that is not discussed as frequently. Rape culture fosters people to blame themselves, to believe that rape is warranted, and to disregard rape. This culture enables rapists to go unpunished- 97% of rapists, to be exact. Once I learned about rape culture, I understood why I was rationalizing a foul act that could never be excused. In Caroline Kitchens’ essay, “It’s Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria,” she shares the guilt she experienced when she told a trusted friend that her roommate’s boyfriend raped her, and was asked, “You were drinking, what did you expect?” (Kitchens). Other people that she chose to confide in asked her if she was wearing something provocative or if she had done something to cause the assault. Interrogating the victim on his or her actions perpetuates the notion that the victim could have done something different to avoid being raped. Kitchens writes, “These questions about my choices the night of my assault — as opposed to the choices made by my rapist — were in some ways as painful as the violent act itself.” The after math of rape does not have to be as painful as it was for Kitchens, but we live in a society that blames women for being assaulted. Living in a society that overlooks women has made it difficult for me to accept that I was a victim of sexual assault.

The thoughts going through my head were similar to Ellie’s, a student at Vassar College who experienced disappointment when she did not receive acknowledgment of the rape she reported. The college decided that there was not enough evidence to prove that the perpetrator was aware she was not in a state of consent, so he never experienced ramifications. Ellie was not upset because she wanted him to suffer, she was upset because of the way the administration handled her situation. She writes,

“I wanted to feel safe and okay on this campus, but I didn’t want to do anything that was going to ruin his life or hurt him… (referring to the administration) By not placing this at the forefront of their agenda, something that would help alleviate the pain that victims of rape and sexual assault experience, it sends a lasting message that these issues are unimportant. Everything about this process was ultimately cold, sterile, and terrifying, and I reached a point in the process where I had to ask myself: am I more afraid of my perpetrator or this school?” (Amicucci)

Ellie was looking for acknowledgment of the pain she was suffering, and in turn she received disdain and neglect. She was brave enough to report an incident that shook her entire life, and in return she was shamed by her peers and discredited by the institution she invests herself in. The pain she suffered and continues to suffer was dismissed by the administration, expressing that the College does not acknowledge the severity of sexual assault. The decision to dismiss Ellie’s appeal must have made it even harder for her to accept the incident and find justification in her sorrow. This is why I decided not to report my incident.

I continuously doubt myself and find myself justifying my perpetrators actions. I often need friends to remind me that what happened was cruel and unacceptable. So when my friends told me that I needed to report my offender to protect other girls, I half-heartedly agreed. I knew they would find it selfish, so I didn’t immediately tell them that I am not going to report the incident. As Ellie expressed, I do not want to ruin my perpetrator’s life, because I would forever live in guilt. If I were to report my rapist and receive publicity, there would be people who would make me feel remorseful. The justice that Ellie sought was unfulfilled, so why would my situation be acknowledged? I have no “evidence,” and my perpetrator is an athlete, so I am certain that there would be no retribution. At first I felt guilty for deciding not to file a report, but as I learn about rape culture, I am realizing that the decision is out of my control. I cannot report the incident because I am afraid of the people who will detest me; I am afraid of an administration that will disappoint me. But primarily, I still do not entirely believe that I was raped. There are parts of me that still believe it was my fault, that believe I am over-analyzing, and that believe he is not a rapist. I often look up the definition of rape, as a way to verify my experience. Rape is defined, as “vaginal intercourse by force, without consent, or with a victim whom the perpetrator knows is mentally disabled, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.”

“Sexual misconduct is defined as various violent and/or non-consensual sexual acts. Silence, passivity, acquiescence, or lack of active resistance does not constitute or imply consent on its own. In addition, previous participation in sexual activity, however recent, does not indicate current consent to participate, and consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to another form of sexual activity.”

Both of the provided definitions explicitly state that under the conditions of my experience, I was raped. There is no way around it- my perpetrator violated the sexual misconduct policy of my University. I have read through all 18 pages of the “student gender-based/ sexual misconduct policy,” and I am happy with the detailed investigation and care my Univeristy claims to provide for situations like my own. Unfortunately, these definitions do not suffice. As a victim of rape culture, I am stricken by impotence, and cannot accept that I was raped.

As I live and breathe the effects of my experience, I continue to ponder the question: why? I cannot fathom how any human being could have the capacity to mercilessly violate another being, and why rape has become so prevalent. Psychologically, people often have sex to feel desired, not even because they physically want to experience sexual intercourse. (Radwan) Rapists believe that they are satisfying their sexual desire, but they are actually attempting to achieve a desire they are unconscious of. Some of these unconscious desires could be expression of power, compensation, regaining control, feeling superior to the opposite gender, or revenge. My perpetrator did not believe that he raped me. There is no way of knowing his intentions, but I believe that he had an ulterior motive he was not conscious of. This does not excuse my rapist’s actions; this merely aids me in understanding why this happened to me. Rape is so common because we live in a patriarchal society that encourages men to assert their sexual dominance over women, as a way to feel established and gain control over their lives. Rape culture causes victims to believe that they motivate their offenders to be rapists, but the victim is never responsible. The victim is the vessel in which the rapist projects his or her own motivation.  I wasn’t raped because I shouldn’t have trusted him. I wasn’t raped because I acted like I wanted it. I wasn’t raped because I didn’t push him away. I wasn’t raped because I needed to learn a lesson. I was raped because he’s a rapist.

Works Cited

Kitchens, Caroline. “It’s Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria.” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.

Amicucci, Elanor. “An Open Letter to the Administration of Vassar College: I Have NOT Forgotten.” Boilerplate Magazine. Boilerplate Magazine, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.

Radwan, M. Farouk. “The Ultimate Source for Understanding Yourself and Others.” Why Do Men Rape Women. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.

I., and Introductio. 04.130 STUDENT GENDER-BASED/SEXUAL MISCONDUCT POLICY Authority: Chancellor (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

Setting the Stage: A Manifesta for Feminist Discourse

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Dear Reader,

The word “feminism” no doubt triggers a hundred different images in your head, and sadly for many, a good portion of them are likely to be pretty nasty.  In today’s world, feminism has become something of a dirty word.  A terrible stereotype of the feminist has emerged: she’s ugly and resentful, she’s a dyke, a misandrist, a bitch, she’s running around without a bra and waiting to yell at you for looking at her tits, she’s bitter, fanatical, and she can’t take a joke.  The resistance against feminism can be overwhelming, and it comes from men and women, young and old, for a variety of reasons.  Those reasons are complicated, important, interesting, and a little ridiculous.  Undoubtedly, we will talk about them at length on this blog.

But for now, let us say this: We are here as young people of the world who are confident in their choice to identify as feminists.  We are here as feminists who want to talk, intelligently and rationally, about making a more just world for the children who are growing up into it.  We are here as students and people who are invested in bringing about equality for genders, so that people of all genders can be freed of the restrictive expectations and stereotypes of the gender binary, imposed upon them based on a simple accident of their birth.

We understand the difficulty of the job ahead of us; It is particularly hard to write about feminist issues because it is hard to be passionate and ardent while simultaneously being composed and articulate. It is hard to uncover an injustice without seeming hostile and bitter. The job of the activist is to deftly navigate the fine line between ranting and inspiring, exposing inequality while still making the cause accessible to all. It’s a tough gig. A professor of mine once wrote on my paper that I needed to “dial back the ire.”  At first I balked at this. Then I realized how true it was.  It is incredibly difficult, and incredibly important, to write with passion, but without ire.

Writing about feminism can also, at times, feel like shouting into a vacuum.  It feels like everyone who will agree with you already does, and everyone else is immovable. When an injustice seems glaringly obvious, it can be exhausting to spoon-feed someone Feminism 101. It is draining to have to hold people’s hands and prove to them that feminism is not some massive conspiracy theory in a world where two thirds of the world’s illiterate are women and we are still arguing over the definition of rape. And we forget, too easily, that some people do not come from backgrounds that supported critical thought about gender politics.  And when we forget this, we forfeit the opportunity to engage those people in the ongoing conversation that is feminism.

Feminism is for everyone, and if we believe that, we must be willing to commit to rational discourse, no matter how frustrating or fruitless it may seem. As feminists, we will scream and rage at the heartbreaking realities of living in a world that is, all too often, overwhelmingly misogynistic.  And then we will check ourselves, gather our thoughts, and figure out how to fix it.  You can’t make the world a better place by yelling at it. And you can’t make the world a better place by grumbling about what a dumbass you think everyone who disagrees with you is.

Another challenge of feminism is a direct result of its scope. Feminism involves everyone. “Feminist issues” are men’s and women’s issues, and so they are simply people’s issues. So how does one speak to and for an overwhelmingly diverse group of people, each with their own, unique experience with gender and feminism? None of us, the writers of this blog, can speak for all women or all men. We will write as individuals and we will be forthcoming and considerate of the specific perspective we have of the world.  We promise to be cognizant of the privileged position we are in as American citizens and New York City residents and educated youth, and we promise to constantly engage our faculties of self-awareness to this end.  In return, we expect readers to respect the work we are putting forth.  Some of it will be creative and emotional, some of it will be intellectual and analytical.  All of it will be honest and genuine.

Our hope is that this blog becomes a part of a cogent and productive discussion about feminism today, feminism for young people, and feminism as a powerful force in the world.  The blog will be a space for all our members to voice their opinions about specific feminist issues, and to voice their unique perspectives.

This is how we are setting the stage.

Sincerely,

Isabel Cristo and Priya Dieterich