A few months back, we wrote about defining and assessing rape culture in the United States, and how systemic violence and sexual assault is one of the most pertinent social issues our country is facing. It seems as if every single day there is breaking news about the harrowing implications of rape culture in the United States and abroad.
There are news reports about the normalization of street harassment and catcalling, and about college fraternities that bond over rape jokes and the objectification of female bodies at their institutions. Even more disturbing are stories about the escalation of violence that exists in this culture, of the humiliation, social stigmatization, and trauma that awaits victims of sexual assault. These stories are not going away; in fact they’re getting much worse.
Activist and author Eve Ensler bluntly explains how “One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That is more than one billion women,” of global violence that targets countless women, and men. Like Ensler, many activists recognize that rape is used as a tool of oppression all around the world. It is employed as a war tactic in developing countries, and it is normalized globally by a culture that tells survivors “they were asking for it.” It happened in Steubenville, Maryville, West Aukland, and the Congo. It takes place on college campuses, between strangers, between acquaintances, and in public, every single day.
Recently, it was announced that a man convicted of violently raping 38 women will be released from a state hospital and allowed to live in a suburban area. Legal analyst Kendall Coffey explains, “It’s not a lot of consolation to people in those communities. In the 90’s the law changed dramatically in a lot of respects…but back in the 70’s or 80’s, it was a different era and victims had much less protection,” of the way that laws have evolved to better protect rape victims. It’s the year 2013, and while there are some protections for victims of sexual assault, there is still much work to be done. The fact that a convicted sex offender will enjoy freedom even after the violent crimes he committed is indicative of the way our society neglects victims of rape. How is his release going to impact the women he harmed?
Expanding the dialogue about how sexual assault pervades our culture and others is critical in determining how to end it. As long as gang rape, nonconsensual sex, street harassment, and violence exist as normalized facets of society, we cannot stop addressing these issues. Eve Ensler’s organization V-DAY operates under the mantra: Until the violence stops. So too will conversations and activists working ceaselessly to end sexual assault.
Featured Image: Chase Carter via Flickr CC