It’s a word that too many people today use lightly, and usually as the butt of a joke.
“Man, I just got raped by that test.” or “You should take it as a compliment. It means somebody likes you.”
Except it’s not a compliment. It’s a violation. Its very meaning is “to take, or to seize.” Dictionary.com defines rape as an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation. Nothing about that definition is funny. And frankly, it needs to stop.
America lives in a rape culture, where acts of violation like this are seen as something to consider uplifting, or brushed off as the victim’s fault. When some star athlete or other beloved schoolboy is the one raping, it’s “poor kid” or “What will this do to his future?” For the girls who have just been abused and violated, it’s “Well, look at what you’re wearing. How could you expect him to resist?” or “You made it seem like you wanted him. It’s your fault for being such a slut!”
Seem a little skewed to you?
I’m not even saying that it’s just men who rape. Yes, there are instances of females raping males. But that’s not my point. My point is that this is not a gender issue but a cultural issue. All too often is violence in America brushed off or excused as if it’s okay.
Those who have kept up with the news or social media lately might know the tale of Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University student who became famous for carrying around her dorm mattress in a protest against her school and her rapist. Sulkowicz filed a claim against fellow student for raping her although she didn’t do it right away.
“I didn’t report it at first because I didn’t feel like dealing with the emotional trauma. But then I met two other women who told me the same person who had assaulted me assaulted them, and I decided I had to do something. We all reported our cases, and all three were dismissed,” said Sulkowicz in an interview with “Time Magazine.”
The hearing for the event didn’t take place until a full seven months after the incident, and even then was hardly helpful for Sulkowicz. As in most cases, her case was dismissed as implausible, and she was falsely accused of being drunk.
What’s wrong with this system is why so few are willing to report rape. They face doubt and suspicion throughout the entire process. Even with the White House’s new Title IX laws, which now enforce “preponderance of evidence,” or a “more likely than not” policy, change isn’t happening soon enough.
What the real problem is that’s facing us today is defining rape. Is rape simply when a person says no? Or is it as early as when a person doesn’t say yes? What if the person says no in the middle of intercourse? Does it become rape then?
In an effort to work toward a better future, California recently stepped up to the plate by passing a “yes means yes” law on college campuses. The law removes any “blurred lines” that may arise in dealing with these situations, stating that consent now requires “‘an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision’ by each party to engage in sexual activity.”
And what about that is so hard? Why has it taken us several years and so many cases of rape for this to happen? Why is it still so common for people to laugh at the idea of a violent act of forcing yourself on another person?
In a report compiled by the White House states that as of 2014, 1 in 5 women were sexually assaulted at college. In their lifetime, nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped, and 1 in 71 men. This comes out to 22 million women and 1.6 million men who have been raped in their lifetime. And it is when people are young that they are the most vulnerable.
Take a stand. Rape culture at its roots is buried in inequality, and the belief that one can belittle another due to some supposedly superior quality. If you see someone forcing themselves on another person, even if it’s something as simple as being persistent in the club, take a stand. Don’t be a bystander. Be the person who keeps rape from happening.