Photo courtesy of Evan Vucci AP
Over thirty women have come out accusing famed comedian Bill Cosby of drugging, sexually assaulting, or raping them. The allegations have ignited a spectrum of reactions from angry and mournful to confused and protective.
Although media has extensively covered the parties involved, what isn’t being talked about how rape culture normalizes sexual violence and blames victims for their own assaults.
So instead of using this story as an opportunity to really examine “rape culture,” or social attitudes that make gendered violence acceptable, we give knee-jerk reactions. I’ve have heard several people look at the Cosby case and immediately question the validity of the victim’s allegations. They say that because some victims are just making their case public now, several years later, that maybe they are lying.
More often than not, when women try to speak out about experiencing sexual violence, they are dismissed on account of “inciting the violence” or lying. This type of response is victim blaming and it’s what I mean when I say “rape culture.”
Victim blaming has consequences.
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), an average of 68 percent of assaults in the last five years were not reported to the police.
I would argue that women don’t report their assaults to police as often as they happen because even they don’t legitimize their own assaults.
Even women can perpetuate gendered violence. From a very young age, women are taught to be the “safe keepers” of their sexuality. The emphasis always tends to be what women will do to prevent assault. We need to shift this conversation.
According to Cal State Long Beach Women’s Studies Professor Dr. Shae Miller, the under-reporting of sexual assault could also be attributed to a historically weak legal system when it comes to sexual assault.
“I think it is important to consider how legal definitions and ideological recognition of rape has changed over the past 30 years,” Miller said.
“Until 1983 there was “no such thing” as spousal rape and a man was never convicted in the U.S. for raping a women he was married to and legally resided with.”
As a student, I want to challenge rape culture and internalized misogyny, especially within educational institutions.
Here in the Los Angeles area, headlines caught fire this week when a local school district was sued because three high school football players videotaped their rape of a fellow student and distributed it among other students.
Only one of the three men received charges, and even then, he managed to trade five years probation in lieu of jail. It’s cases like these in which the offenders do not receive any punishment that allow rape culture to flourish. They reinforce the devaluing of women’s lives.
Thanks to social media campaigns such as #RapeCultureisWhen, many women and allies alike are working toward dismantling rape culture, or at the least, creating awareness.
The first step to preventing sexual assault is to begin having discussion around sex, sexual assault and consent with boys and girls at a young age.
Young people, especially sexually active youth, need to know that victims of assault are never at fault. They need to know that only (Yes Means Yes) and that sexually revealing
clothing is not consent! Going on a date does not give you consent and buying a person a drink does not give you consent or entitlement to anything from a person. Our bodies are our own!
“The first step to untethering ourselves to this problematic system is a critical consciousness,” said LB GRRL Collective in an issued statement. “Through dialogue, we can get to the roots of these problems together and find a way to resist them individually and together as a counter culture.”