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The Date Rape Culture

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Date Rape Culture2By Terrah Baker

Everyone’s heard the story of the young, attractive college-age girl walking alone at night to her car when a man wearing a black mask and wielding a pocketknife attacks her. He roughly forces her to the ground, leaving bruises and scrapes on her legs, and holding her mouth to muffle her screams, he rapes her. When he’s done, she’s left in the parking lot, helpless having screamed for help and fought for so long only to have lost. The cops eventually arrive, take her story and the perpetrator is later brought to justice.

These stories are told, but very rarely in the real world. Because in reality, sexual assault mostly happens behind closed doors, with someone the victim knows and by men who have been desensitized to — and pressured by — the rape culture.

Statistic: 90% of college women know their assaulter, while 75% of perpetrators and 55% of victims are intoxicated during the sexual assault. (NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Journal, 2002)

Unrealistic Lessons

That’s why past solutions to curbing sexual assault were to teach women self-defense against masked predators, walk with friends in lighted areas, and carry keys with the sharp ends pointed out. However, it’s men who need educating, said victim advocates.

“The issue we have is people’s view on sex offenders, and that we want to rule them as some type of subhuman devil that is unchangeable, that is completely corrupt and separate from us as the general normative society, because that makes us feel safe and good,” said Jen Carlson, sexual assault dynamics trainer for the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “When actually, we know sexual violence is cultivated within our culture. It’s learned and justified behavior and it’s so many times adaptive.”

In the real world, sexual assault often leaves few bruises and scrapes, there may be no screaming or fighting and most shockingly, no perpetrator is usually brought to justice.

Statistic: In 2011, 2,319 cases of sexual violence were reported to law enforcement, with only 374 arrests being made —  a 16 percent arrest rate: The Lowest since 2007. (Arkansas Crime Information Center)

Gender Stereotypes

More organizations have been forming around the country supporting the idea of educating boys on how to be respectful, to talk about sexual consent and to break down the prejudices that men can’t be sensitive, emotional or caring for fear of weakness.

The basic lesson from activists and organizations like Coaching Boys Into Men and Men Against Sexual Violence is that violence doesn’t have to be a part of masculinity.

Addressing female stereotypes that feed sexual violence is just as important to understanding why it is so pervasive in our society, said Dr. Kristen N. Jozkowski, assistant professor of community health for the UofA.

In our already “sex negative culture” of not discussing sex coupled with the negative association with a woman who wants to have sex, uninformed students can’t discuss consent openly and lines are blurred, she explained.

Jozkowski studies sexual assault on college campuses, consent negotiation and assault prevention.

Statistic: As rape is the most common crime on college campuses today, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Jozkowski has her work cut out for her.

“Rape culture, particularly in college, is evident because we exist within a culture where sexual assault is very common,” she said.

“Our attitude norms, practices and media normalizes, provides excuses, and tolerates sexual violence.”

This can be seen through examples of every day language such as “That test just raped me,” and cases as recent as 2012 where male students at the University of Miami hung a flier in the men’s bathroom reading

“10 ways to get away with rape,” with number 10 being “Rape, rape, rape. It’s college, boys, live it up!” Or at Yale University in 2010 when boys as part of a fraternity hazing ritual ran through female dorms yelling “No means yes, and yes means anal.”

Statistic: 1 in 4 college women will be a victim of sexual assault. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010.)

Making The Cultural Shift
According to the research of Dr. David Lisak, forensic psychologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, only six percent of the male population can be defined as a sexual predator, while numbers of victims would suggest a much higher percentage.

His conclusion is masculine peer pressure and serial assaulting; sometimes more than 100 victims in a predators lifetime.

He said when we strip away the victim-blaming and start focusing on prosecuting the predators, we can start to decrease the number of victims.

Statistic: 91 percent of victims are assaulted by a serial offender. Serial offenders will have an average of 14 victims before the age of 30. (University of Massachusetts, Boston, Dr. David Lisak, 2012)

We must also make the cultural shift to a respect and consent society, said activists.

First and foremost teaching people, especially boys and men, about respect and boundaries, instead of focusing on telling women what not to wear and watching their drink, explained Carlson.

“Because when we do that all we’re doing is deflecting the rapist to another victim. We’re just creating other victims,” she said.

Jozkowski said a large impact could be made if people would stop taking part in jokes or cultural stereotypes pertaining to sexual assault and women, remembering its prevalence in our society.
“Once you realize what’s going on, you’ll start recognizing these things in media, and around you.”
Statistic: Jozkowski’s research shows college students report more pleasurable sex when they’re able to talk openly about what they want.

For more information on sexual assault victim advocacy, or if you or someone you know has experienced a sexual assault, contact the Fayetteville-based Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

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