How colleges create an environment that rape culture thrives 

When students get to college, there are many new things that they must learn to fit in with their new environment. Some of them are things like avoiding the freshman 15, or syllabus week, but one of the most disturbing is learning the prevalence of rape culture.

Rape culture is a term used often in society, and has become somewhat notorious on college campuses. But often people don’t understand the meaning of what rape culture is.

Rape culture was originally coined by feminists in the early 1970s and was used to show the ways that society blamed the victims of sexual assault and normalized sexual violence. Emilie Buchwald, author of “Transforming a Rape Culture”, defines rape culture as “a complex set of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching and rape itself.”

Rather than seeing rape as a problem that needs to be solved, people in a rape culture think of rape as just the way that things are.

One of the biggest problems with eliminating rape culture is ignoring its existence and not being able to recognize what it looks like. In comments sections online, people talk about how rape culture is a phrase that was made up to make men look bad or make rape seem more of an issue than it truly is.

One of the biggest issues that has occurred includes musical lyrics that objectify women or trivialize the necessity of consent in sexual situations. One primary example is Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” where women are told that they want it because of the blurred lines of consent due to intoxication.

Another prominent display of rape culture is blaming the victims of rape for tempting their attacker through their dress or behavior. On some campuses, sexual assault prevention education programs focus on women being told to take measures to prevent rape instead of simply telling men not to rape.

Some psychologists say that rape is a growing problem due to the constant devaluing of women and the increased access to pornography in our society. This leads college students to act out their fantasies due to their decreased sense of judgement.

One of the biggest problems with the debate over rape culture is its inclination to focus on certain groups within the student population, such as athletes or Greek life, rather than apply the focus to all people who choose to commit rape.

While rape culture is prevalent on college campuses, it exists in almost all areas of society, including the workforce after college. Because rape culture is a way of thinking and existence, it can’t be eliminated by only dealing with one area of its extent; it has to be drastically cut out of society as a whole.

According to RAINN, 23 percent of females and 5 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault while they are undergraduate students. However, most statistics on rape aren’t truly accurate, because only about 20 percent of victims report to law enforcement.

Rape culture has an effect on most women. The rape of just one woman strikes terror in the hearts of almost all women. Studies show that an intense fear of rape is common developed in a majority of girls and women between the ages of 2 and 12.

One-third of women report worrying about rape at least once a month or more. This fear is something that lives in the back of their minds at all times as a possibility that might happen. Another third claimed to never worry about rape but still took precautions to guard against sexual assault, such as carrying pepper spray with them. Many girls limit their behavior and actions out of fear of rape.

There are ways to combat rape culture and increase others’ awareness for their actions and words. Students can avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women, and speak out if someone is making an offensive joke that trivializes rape. Most importantly: be an active bystander. Many students often witness parts of a situation that could turn violent that ultimately did. Just one person being an active bystander could save a victim of sexual assault.

The Winthrop University Office of Victims Assistance is located in 104 Crawford Building. They provide direct services to survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, bullying and bias crime. They also offer campus-wide educational programs in order to prevent these crimes from occurring in the first place.

Their staff provides counseling services and assists with obtaining sexual assault forensic exams, STI testing/treatment, pregnancy prevention, housing options, legal prosecution and access to other support services.

In case of an after-hours emergency, call Campus Police at 803-323-3333 or the local rape crisis center, Safe Passage, at 803-329-2800

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