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Rape Culture

In 2011, Penn State University and the surrounding community of State College received
a great shock when former assistant Nittany Lions football coach Jerry Sandusky was revealed to
have been sexually abusing underprivileged children on Penn States campus (Marcotte). When
the news broke, one would expect the general populous shock, but one would hopefully not
expect the amount of support rallied around the perpetrator of this abuse, or the people that
helped Sandusky abuse many children for several years through hiding his actions. Over the
following months, several faculty members including the head football coach, Joe Paterno would
be fired. Instead of being enraged at the abuse of the communitys children, Penn State students
rioted for the detriment this caused to the football program regarding the termination of Paterno.
To this day, a proud sign can be seen on the window of Antiques and Collectables on Atherton
St, right at the edge of campus: We support Joe Paterno. This is what is referred to as rape
culture: the environment in which rape and sexual violence is prevalent, normalized and excused,
(Rape Culture) and the best way to end this culture is through education.
Unfortunately, this is not the only example of rape and rape culture on Penn States
campus, nor the only example on any American college campus. RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and
Incest National Network reports that 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an
attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, and 1 out of every 33 American men have
experienced the same. 44% of rape victims are under the age of 18 at the time of their abuse, and
girls ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape,
attempted rape, or sexual assault (Reporting Rates). University Park Police also report that
there were 40 reported forcible sexual offenses in 2011, and 79 in 2012 (Policies, Safety and
U). According to RAINN and the Department of Justice, the national statistic states that only
approximately 40% of these cases are reported (Reporting Rates). Extrapolating this data alone
means approximately 300 students experienced sexual violence on this campus alone over the
course of two years. This means that a significant amount of the women and men around us have
experienced, or within the next four years will experience, some form of sexual abuse in their
lives. But how do their peers react?
Dartmouth students held a protest last year during a prospective student event, bringing
light to how the school administrations policy on handling sexual abuse and rape cases was
highly ineffective and rarely ever punished students that committed these crimes. Instead, the
students that protested were punished (Culp-Ressler). When the story was published to the local
newspapers website, comments on the story included wish I had a shotgun, would have blown
those [explitive] hippies away and its women like these who deserve to get raped. Note that
many protesters in the crowd were rape victims themselves (Strasser).
People participating in rape culture do not only respond defensively, however. Georgia
Techs branch of the fraternity Phi Kappa Tau has recently come under fire for an email that one
of the chairs sent out, teaching new members how to lure rapebait through what the author
calls the 7 Es of hooking up which quickly move from Encounter and Engage to
Erection and Ejaculate. The entire premise of the email is teaching new boys how to
effectively get a girl drunk enough so they can have sex with them (Ga. Tech Suspends
Fraternity). The email closes with this message in all caps: If anything ever fails, go get more
alcohol (Dorn). The university disbanded the fraternity on April 4
of this year after a thorough
investigation of the branch, including lyrics from the latest Christmas party, which horrifically
and graphically depicted abusing women sexually and using derogatory language. Some lyrics
included who can take two ice picks/stick em in her ears/ride her like a Harley while he pokes
her in the rear and who can take a bicycle/tear off the seat/impale a virgin on it and push her
down a bumpy street (Ryan).
With these chilling examples brought to light, how one would combat this issue must
come next. As RAINNs statistics state, the most at-risk population for rape and sexual abuse are
girls age 16 to 19 (Reporting Rates). With this in mind, a nationally implemented
comprehensive sexual and relationship education program would be the best response to ending
this pervasive acceptance of rape in collegiate environments. The targeted student would be
those in grades 9 through 12, seeing as the age of students would be 14-18, effectively reaching
those before they are most at risk, and when both genders are first emotionally mature enough to
handle such serious content. This would also be effective in reaching students who may be at the
peak risk and educating and assisting those at risk or dealing with the realities of sexual abuse or
rape. The ideal curriculum would include lessons teaching the morality and legality of consent,
psychological consequences of victims, the reality of rape culture and the effects it has on
victims, perpetrators, and bystanders, how to identify a healthy or unhealthy relationship, and
effective resources available to all students nationally in case they believe a friend, family
member or themselves are a victim of sexual abuse or rape. Resources could include a trained
guidance counselor or student assistance counselor, RAINNs national hotline and chat room,
and other nationally endorsed resources for victims and their peers. This plan would also need to
focus on the fact that although women are statistically more at risk for sexual assault and rape,
many boys and men are victims as well. It would also be necessary for the program to include
information and statistics regarding victims and perpetrators within the LGBT+ community, for
example, approximately 50% of people within the transgender community have been victims of
sexual abuse at some point in their lives (National Statistics). The curriculum must also
include members of the LGBT+ community within the discourse of the lessons. In order for this
policy to work, instructors would also need to be trained to effectively teach, and sensitivity
training and basic counseling skills such as active listening would need to be learned.
Although this project seems to demand much from the already taxing roles teachers play,
it would not require much more than a few extra lessons per year, and can be incorporated easily
into existing sexual health lessons. The payoff would mean a higher quality of health education
to our students, and ultimately, more support within schools and universities for victims. The
only places the proposed curriculum might be more demanding would be those that do not
already have modern sex education programs, and this national initiative would push them into
providing protection for their students. The fact that this plan would be nationally implemented
is also daunting, especially considering that public education is handled on the state level.
However, standardized testing requirements, such as those imposed by former President Bushs
No Child Left Behind act, have proven that national legislation can effectively reform public
education. There have even been similar campaigns prior within the health programs of our
students, such as Wise Guys. A study done by the National Institute of Health has shown the
effectiveness of this specific program, which aims to help specifically young men learn topics
such as self-esteem, sexuality, masculinity, dating violence and healthy relationships (Multi-
Session Programs). The study specifically noted that Wise Guys participants demonstrated
greater posttest and follow-up knowledge of sex and reproductive biology knowledge of STD
transmission, and higher rates of desirable attitudes toward sex and appropriate behavior in
sexual relationships favorable behavioral changes were also reported among sexually active
participants at follow-up (Gruchow, 152-8).
The program must also strive to be all inclusive in order to prosper, and as previously
stated, include all genders and sexualities in discourse as well as provide resources that would be
readily accessible to every student in every district in order for this system to fair, just, and
morally sound. As for current alternatives to education, one of the most popular currently is
calling for reform of the justice system and how it handles cases of rape and sexual assault,
regarding punishment of the abusers. This would be ineffective in dealing with rape culture
however, when one considers that again, only 40% of rape and sexual abuse cases are reported,
and the backlash the victims currently receive would only increase if communities that normalize
rape and sexual assault and protect abusers feel that they are being attacked more. Although the
justice system must be revised when dealing with cases of sexual assault and rape, seeing as
currently only 3% of rapists spend even a single day in jail, (Reporting Rates) this cannot
occur until victims can feel safe enough within their communities to come forward and share
their story in the same way one may come forward to report a robbery. The second, and possibly
larger alternative to education currently is advocacy, which is ineffective due to its splintered,
grass roots movements which only target specific areas at a time, such as Take Back the Night
and SlutWalk, although they are beginning to gain national notoriety. These movements are also
seen as highly controversial, because they are targeting communities that already directly attack
survivors. The population they are aiming for are already opposed to them, making it much more
difficult to change their outlook as compared to reaching a neutral population through education.
The Dartmouth protestors did get their day. The school cancelled classes soon after their
protest, and instead had education on rape and sexual assault provided to all of their students
(Strasser). And although this is one happy step in the right direction, many higher education
institutions such as Swarthmore College and Amherst College are still being chided for covering
up sexual abuse on their campuses in order to protect their image (Strasser). Rape culture may
not be able to change with this generation or possibly even the next, but the process can begin
through discourse implemented through educating and protecting the next generation and
showing them the mistakes of ours.

Works Cited
1. Marcotte, Amanda. "The Penn State Scandal and Rape Culture." RH Reality Check. N.p.,
13 Nov. 2011. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
2. "Rape Culture." Women's Center. Marshall University, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
3. "Reporting Rates." Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr.
4. "Policies, Safety, and U: 2013 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report."
Penn State University Police, n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.
5. Culp-Ressler, Tara. "How Colleges Lenient Sexual Assault Policies Allow Serial Rapists
To Escape Punishment." ThinkProgress. N.p., 14 June 2013. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
6. Strasser, Annie-Rose. "Dartmouth College Cancels Classes After Sexual Assault
Protesters Receive Rape Threats." ThinkProgress. N.p., 24 Apr. 2013. Web. 06 Apr.
7. "Ga. Tech Suspends Fraternity for 'Rapebait' Email." ABC News. ABC News Network,
n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
8. Dorn, Roger. "KT Member From Georgia Tech Sends Rapiest Email Ever Let Them
Grind Against Your Dick." Total Frat Move. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.
9. Ryan, Erin G. "Infamous 'Rapebait' Frat Disbanded for Being Entirely Too Rapey."
Jezebel. N.p., 4 Apr. 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
10. "National Statistics." Rape Response Services. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
11. Minemyer, Chip. "UNIVERSITY PARK: Penn State Officials, Franklin Forced to
Address Vanderbilt Rape Case." The Centre Daily Times, 11 Jan.
2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
12. "Multi-Session Programs." Wise Guys. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
13. Gruchow, H. W., and R. K. Brown. "Evaluation of the Wise Guys Male Responsibility
Curriculum: Participant-control Comparisons." National Institute of Health (2011): 152-
58. Web.