Episode 108: "What does rape culture look like?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about what the phrase “rape culture” means.
This is Jessica Skultety, Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.
Jessica: Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, what does rape culture look like?
And today we’re joined again by Safe+Sound Somerset college volunteer, Ella Blank, who goes to the University of Maryland.
Ella: Hi everyone! So, according to Dictionary.com, rape culture is “a subset of values, beliefs, and behaviors in a society that trivializes or normalizes sexual violence, including rape.” Unfortunately, this is a society we live in 2022 America, today.
We want to be clear that people of all genders, including men, experience sexual assault and rape. Cisgender women, transgender women, and gender diverse folks experience the highest amount of sexual violence. Most importantly, sexual violence that anyone experiences is not okay.
J: Right. You can look at rape culture in the shape of a pyramid. So at the bottom, you can see the -phobias and -isms that exist in our society’s structure. This includes things like racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, and colonialism. From there, those things build up. Rape culture exists in everyday interactions, like sexist attitudes, rape jokes, catcalling, entitlement to someone’s body or a relationship, and slut-shaming.
All these things and more promote the next level of things like: nonconsensual touching, nonconsensual sharing of photos or videos of somebody who’s nude, stalking, sexual harassment, rape, other forms of sexual assault, and even murder. Those things at the top of the pyramid don’t just come out of nowhere. They’re part of a structure that’s built into our society. For a visual look at a Rape Culture Pyramid, check out the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance online.
E: People and societies often minimize or deny the harm that sexual violence survivors experience. So many people don’t believe survivors at all. This can make it difficult to report or tell anyone about sexual violence, and to heal from these traumatizing, often life-changing incidents.
And when many survivors across the country and world are disbelieved, silenced, or unheard, it contributes to a culture that makes sexual violence seem normal or not that bad. We also see a lot of people put pressure on women specifically to prevent rape.
J: Plus, victims and survivors of sexual violence often get blamed directly for actions, which is a part of rape culture. We hear this in media and from family and friends, when people say, “Why were they wearing that?” or, “Why did they even go to that party?”
E: Media plays into the culture too, a good amount, where young girls and women specifically are sexualized and objectified, or seen as objects to be used, even when they do things that are empowering to them. When the media treats women as objects, sexualizes them, or constantly makes them seen as “less than” men specifically, it can make it seem like violence against women might be acceptable.
J: Yeah. When you make someone seem like an object, you can justify violence against them, or maybe it doesn’t seem that bad. As a result of this culture that we live in, women and gender diverse folks, and women being both cisgender and transgender women, often feel like they have to expect violence at any time and feel like they have to keep themselves safe. I am saying this as a woman myself and someone who has seen this with many of my female presenting friends. So, Ella, if we are all going to change rape culture, what do you see a consent culture looking like?
E: Personally, I think would be great for everyone to ask for consent and respect whatever responses are given. No pressure, threats, expectations, or entitlement. Consent culture should be practiced in all circumstances and even within relationships!
We need to educate ourselves and others about consent, sexual violence, and toxic behaviors. We all need to hold people accountable when they participate in any of the actions that promote rape culture.
J: I agree with that, and I also think consent culture to me looks like believing survivors of sexual violence, all the time. For example, only about 2-8% of rape cases in the United States nationally have been proven false, and those are just the ones that are reported – many are not. The large majority of the time, people are not making this up. It’s up to all of us – not just those of us working with survivors of sexual violence or trying to prevent it. We all have a voice and a power in this culture. We need to speak up.
To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.