Photographed in Cincinnati, OH on 02/10/14
It’s sad that RAINN, the organization posted on Project Unbreakable’s website to help survivors in need of counseling, can’t see that these pictures from Project Unbreakable are examples of a rape culture. Rape culture doesn’t mean that everyone is raping everyone; it means that as a society, both national and global, we carry certain attitudes, perceptions, and stereotypes of sexual violence, and we use these traits in how we handle and view sexual violence. Rape culture means questioning a victim’s complaint and credibility, siding with the perpetrator because he/she seems like their “nice people” who couldn’t possible hurt anyone, and assuming that the survivor must be lying. Rape culture means labeling someone as a “slut” because of their past sexual activity, clothing, drinking, etc., and then assuming that he/she must have “wanted it” or that it’s “their fault” someone else made the decision to violate their bodies. Rape culture is when these arguments are used for why a survivor often is not given a right to trial when he/she decides to report, and why their attackers are found not guilty or given small sentences or even community service. Rape culture is when survivors are too scared to report for fear of not being believed, aggravating their attacker more, and being judged by others for “putting themselves in that situation”, being a “slut”, or “asking for it”. Rape culture is when we perceive that only “certain girls get raped”, and not girls who “respect themselves”. Rape culture is when we believe that precautions are invisible force shields, that survivors did not already try to be safe or did not already feel safe before they were attacked, that perpetrators are not aware of the precautions that people already take, and don’t already know how to work around them. Rape culture is when we think that drinking or wearing certain clothing causes rape, even though there have been plenty of people who did not drink or were fully clothed who were raped, and drugs and alcohol only account for half of total rape cases in the U.S. Rape culture is when we assume that women are sexualized objects and men are just rapists at heart who cannot control themselves. Rape culture is when we consider rapists to only be strangers, though over 80% of survivors know their attackers. Rape culture is when we refuse to acknowledge that rape is solely the perpetrators fault, and nothing the victim could have done would have provoked them or “stopped” them from hurting them. Lastly, rape culture is when we assume that MEN and BOYS cannot be victims/survivors, and that WOMEN and GIRLS cannot be attackers, because “don’t men want sex all the time?”, not to mention the misconception that people who identify as LGBTQ cannot be assaulted/raped.
I understand that “rape culture” sounds derogatory; it’s definitely not an appropriate word to describe what the term really means, and that is why so many people want to deny that it exists. The term makes people take the words too literally rather than its actual definition; i.e. that “rape culture” means we live in a culture of rape rather than a world that is oblivious to our attitudes toward sexual violence. It’s important to bring awareness to its definition, and point out examples of it when we see it.