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Imagine an 11 year old girl; raped and left in a gutter. Gang raped by 18 different men
from the ages of 14 to 26. She was sassy and loved to dress up and wear make up. She wanted
to be a grown up according to CNN. She did not ask to be raped just because she dressed
older than she was and wore make up. It is not her fault she was raped because she wanted to
look nice. Not only did this girl have to cope with the fact that she was raped, but she had to
deal with backlash from people in her own community. Being blamed for an occurrence she
had no control over by the people who were closest to her; no one stood up for her. This is rape
culture. Victims should not be blamed under any circumstance. To blame a rape victim is to
accept rape as an occurrence that is the fault of the raped and the raped alone. To stop the
thought of the rape of women as an acceptable occurrence in America and rape culture,
Americans must first stop blaming rape victims for their rape. Second, the media must help to
create a more safe and understanding environment for women and rape victims. Lastly,
Americans must all work harder to educate children about rape and sexual harassment. These
are just a few of the ways Americans can work to combat the rape of women as an acceptable
occurrence in America.
Literature Review
According to Feminist.com blaming a victim is a very normal emotional response to
rape. To the victim, guilt may be a very strong feeling as a result of the rape and victim
blaming. Its very reliable information because of it's multiple sources. Buzz Feed then writes
an article about how Robin Thickes hit song Blurred Lines perpetuates rape culture with its
suggestive lyrics and misogynistic music video featuring naked and half naked super models.
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The Daily Beast wrote on how the rape joke aimed at an audience member at The Laugh
Factory may be dismissed becayse its comedy. Popular comedian, Louis C. K., defends Tosh
and calls comedy "the feminists enemy". With credible quotes from Daniel Tosh's Twitter. The
New Yorker talks about the Steubenville rape case. The details of the trial are discussed as well
as the rape itself. CNN aleo talks about the Steubenville rape case but biasedly. CNN only
focuses on the destroyed lives of the rapists but does not mentiin the rape victim. Its very
credible due to the quotes used by prosecutors and the rapists themselves.
There are different interpretations of the phrase rape culture. Some believe rape
culture is solely the belief that rape is okay, or the acceptance of its prevalence. Some believe it
is solely when rape or assault is in some way glorified and made normal through either media
or pop culture. Rape as defined by The Free Dictionary is, the offence of forcing a person,
[especially] a woman, to submit to sexual intercourse against that person's will, and although
there may be slightly different variations for the definition of rape they are all ultimately the
same.
Just like how rape has many definitions many people have different views on what rape
culture actually is and how it is defined. According to Marshall University Womens Center,
Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence
against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. A rape culture
will include everyone. This includes rape victims, the families of those who have been raped,
citizens who remain silent, defenders of rapists and more.
According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network 1 in 6 women will be raped
in their lifetime with a staggering 14.8% of females who were raped or victim of an attempted
rape. There are 89,000 rapes on average that are reported annually and 60% of rapes arent
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even reported; 3 out of 100 (StatisticsBrain, 2013). Of those statistics of women, 44% were
under the age of 18 and 80% under 30. 78% of those women were raped by someone who
wasnt a stranger (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, 2013), so this could have been a
supposed friend, an ex, a friend of the family, or even a family member.
The confidentiality of victims who are minors, or just minors in general, in the news is
normally a top priority for news outlets. Being a minor, the 11 year olds identity was
(thankfully) not released by press. This is usually a very standard policy amongst most media
outlets and is a practice of the Associated Press guidelines.
In one case of a young black girl's supposed rape in New York is truly baffling and the
media coverage and response is a large factor in rape culture. Tawana Brawley, who at the time
of the accusations was 15, is an African- American female from New York who falsely
accused six white men of raping her in 1987. Tawanas rape case described a, shocking
brutality [that] sparked a national outrage and racial tensions (Jessica Chasmar, 2013).
Although, at this time, a there werent as many media outlets that implemented the policy of
not releasing the names of minors, it was still a fairly common practice but for some reason
Tawana Brawley's information was released. According to Gregory Kane of
BlackAmericaWeb.com. Tawanas treatment by the media made her community suspect racial
unfairness.
Albeit, Tawanas rape allegations were false, but even before any evidence could be
used for or against her, many immediately rejected the possibility of her being raped or faulted
her for her own (supposed) raping. Many of these opposers were caucasian citizens. Tawanna
initially received support from her own community as well as from Reverend Al Sharpton.
Sharpton and her community defended her against her portrayal in mainstream media. Again,
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despite the fact that Tawanas accusations were false the immediate backlash by the media and
white citizens was truly flooring.
Initially, Tawana had a great deal of support from her community, black citizens of her
city, and even Rev. Al Sharpton, but unfortunately the ll year old girl did not. The raping
almost tore her small town in two over who supported her and who blamed her. According to
an article written by Jessica Harper of ABC World News, the rape case, stirred racial tensions
that threatened to split the East Texas Hamlet (2011). This is reminiscent of Tawanas rape
case. Its as if it was so difficult for the citizens of the town to understand the rape and divided
themselves into two groups.
Group 1 named She Needs Our Help and the opposing group Its Her Own Fault. This
is a very large part of rape culture. Victim blaming. Victim blaming, as defined by Wikipedia,
is placing fault or responsibility on the victim of crimes and/ or transgressions.
One particular and very infamous case of victim blaming is the Steubenville High
School rape case. On August 12, 2012 a high school girl attended a party and passed out from
over consumption of alcohol. Two high school football players, Trent Mays and Malik
Richmond, took it upon themselves to decide for the completely incapacitated girl that she
wanted to engage in sexual activity. The two boys repeatedly raped the young girl while a
crowd of people watched, laughed, and recorded the event. The girl awoke the next day and
had no knowledge of what happened to her and she might not have ever if people didnt talk
about it on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook or recorded it.
Students and guests at the party flocked to social media and began harassing the victim
about it. Calling her a whore because of the rape and blaming her and it eventually made her
believe that she was the one to blame for her own rape. Some residents and others on social
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media blamed the girl, saying she put the football team in a bad light and put herself in a
position to be violated, says Juliet Macur of The New York Times. There were very few who
seemed to openly support her and realise she was the victim. Even a certain newsgroup seemed
to have trouble seeing who the victim was.
One CNN reporter who was on the scene while the trial of the rapists was going on said
it was difficult to watch as these two young men who had such promising futures, star
football players, very good students literally watched as they believed their life fell apart
(Edwards, 2013). CNN completely failed to mention, or even wonder, how this rape would
forever affect the life of the actual rape victim but not before carelessly releasing her name via
recording of the trial, and made completely biased statements on the case wondering and
grieving for the boys lives and futures, speaking on how they cried at the verdict and when
Malik Richmond cried he said My life is over. No one is going to want me now (Davidson,
2013).
Richmond was sentenced to the minimum sentence of one year in a juvenile detention
center and Mays received two, the additional year was for the recording of the rape which
qualifies as child pornography since the victim was a minor. One of the most amazing things
about this case, other than peoples reactions to it, is the fact that the hacker who brought the
rape to light and exposed Mays and Richmond may be facing more jail time than the convicted
rapists themselves. The man who helped solve the case is going to jail for solving the case.
Derec Lostutter exposed the crimes of Richmond and Mays by hacking into twitter and
Facebook accounts and recovering the recording of the raping according to a UPI article. He is
facing 10 years in jail after the FBI raided his home (Bleier, 2014).
The town and media blame the raped and the vigilante, while the rapists are pitied and
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celebrated. This is the pure essence of rape culture and should be the very reason to change the
way society views rape. Society makes women believe that they are to blame for the crimes
done against them. It is achieved by shaming her and forcing her to think shes at fault. It is
achieved by grieving for the loss of futures for rapists or passing them along as if what they
did was nothing at all. Ignoring the obvious problem out of ignorance to feel safe. This
ignorance is how rape culture starts, when as children girls are told boys will be boys, so girls
must take care but boys are never taught one simple thing; Dont rape people.
Unfortunately, stopping rape is an unrealistic goal, but changing the way people think
about rape, the victims, and perpetrators is possible. In the effort to destroy rape culture and
completely remove it from the minds of the future generation, the media must work hard to
help. The role the media and popular culture play in the lives of not just Americans, but
citizens of the world, is so great that peoples very opinions and thoughts are created by them.
From music to news to movies and television and even advertisements, negative, as well as
positive, messages are displayed everywhere in the media for every topic, but it seems lately
there are more negative than positive.
Popular comedians such as Daniel Tosh are creating and telling rape jokes during stand
up performances. Tosh was performing his stand up at The Laugh Factory for his Tosh Twenty
Twelve Tour and made a general statement about rape jokes always being funny, according
to an article by Hollie McKay, to which a female audience member screamed out rape jokes
are never funny. Tosh then said to the audience as a joke, Wouldnt it be funny if that girl
got raped by like, five guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys raped her
(Mckay, FoxNews, 2012). Jokes like these are a large part of rape culture as the create a
window for more jokes to be made, oversimplifying rape and making it seem normal and
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laughable. Situations like this are worsened when other more popular comedians support and
defend these jokes. Throughout the entire situation about Toshs joke popular comedian Louis
C.K. supported and defended Tosh. Tosh apologized in a tweet to the female audience
member saying, all the out of context misquotes aside, Id like to sincerely apologize then
one minute later said, the point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in
the world but you can still make jokes about them. #deadbabies (McGlynn, Huffington Post,
2012).
Daniel Toshs apology, albeit sarcastic as it is, was enough to satisfy some people in
knowing that he acknowledged his mistake whereas CNN refuses to apologize for their biased
report of the Steubenville rape. According to a Huffington Post article, CNN's coverage of the
Steubenville rape trial verdict was met with an onslaught of criticism this week after network
reporters stressed the impact the decision will have on the rapists, not on the victim (Shapiro,
The Huffington Post, 2013). The report on the trial of the Steubenville rape was covered by
Poppy Harlow who was outraged over accusations of a completely biased report. A petition
was started in order to have CCN apologize for the sympathetic coverage of the rape case. The
petition was created on the website Change.org.
An article on Change.org written by John Szarowski next to the petition states, Not
once did CNN mention the person whose life was most destroyed by their crime, who will also
be haunted for life by their crime... their victim. The young girl who they violated and raped
(2013). This is true. Not once in the coverage of the trial was the rape victim mentioned. Only
how difficult it was to watch as the two promising young men had their lives destroyed.
Szarowski goes onto say, The media, and it's personalities have a huge role to play in shaping
public opinion and public perception. With that role comes an equal responsibility to ensure
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they use that role for the good of society. Clearly CNN did not use the power that they posses
for the good of society but they did indeed succeed in adding to rape culture.
Although there were many who supported the petition, it did not receive enough
signatures for CNN to recognize the problem and apologize. CNN successfully contributed by
sympathizing with rapists as if they were the victims of their own crime and releasing their
coverage, defending the normalization and acceptance of rape in our society.
CNN arent the only ones who contributed to rape culture recently. Robin Thickes #1
hit Blurred Lines caused a stir amongst feminists and rape survivors. According to an article by
Melinda Hughes, Robin Thickes recent song Blurred Lines has generated controversy due
to its rape-y lyrics and demeaning music video. Women all over the country have been up in
arms over the objectifying nature of the song (2013). Many feminists found not only the song
but the music video to be very degrading to women and became a trigger for many rape victims
do to the lyrics I know you want it. Although Thicke may not have intentionally tried to add
to rape culture he certainly did. Many rape survivors responded negatively to the song,
reminding them of the attack due to the lyrics (you know you want it). One interpreted
meaning of the song brings to light the mindset that many have. Tricia Romano of The Daily
Beast says The song is about how a girl really wants crazy wild sex but doesnt say it
positing that age-old problem where men think no means yes into a catchy, hummable
song(2013).
Other popular artists from other genres of music are also known to perpetuate rape
culture. Recently rapper Rick Ross lost an endorsement from Reebok for his lyrics in a song
obviously describing date rape (The Individual Feminist, 2013). In the song U.OE.N.O by
Rocko featuring Rick Ross, a line in Ross verse stated, Put Molly all in the champagne. She
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ain't even know it. I took her home and I enjoy that. She ain't even know it.
Rape culture in America needs to die with this generation and enforcing consequences
and reprucussions for those in a position of influence who perpetuate rape culture will surely
make people think twice about creating content that normalizes sexual assault and rape so they
cant influence the thoughts of children by enforcing rape culture. According to one article to
end rape culture we have to name the real problems and they are described as victim blaming
and violent masculinity (The Nation, 2013). The main message of the portion of the article
speaks directly on the very poisonous thought process that arose with previous generations and
is part of the rape culture now, When an instance of sexual assault makes the news and the
first questions the media asks are about the victims sobriety, or clothes, or sexuality, we
should all be prepared to pivot to ask, instead, what messages the perpetrators received over
their lifetime about rape and about being a man (The Nation, 2013).
And teaching young boys what it means to be a man isnt wrong; its all about what
theyre taught, whether that means specifying that just because youre a man does not mean
you are entitled to the bodies of women or that no one deserves to be violated in the way you
are when youre raped. So in the end its all about making sure the ones after this generation
learn what it means to be a caring, empathizing human being.
All in all, its very possible for Americans to destroy rape culture. With the support of
the media who no longer perpetuate rape culture by glorifying rape or making jokes about it,
Americans will no longer blame victims because it would have been enforced by not only the
media but parental figures who taught their own children about rape and its affects on people.
Case Study
The Marshall University Women's Center defines rape culture as "[a culture] in which
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rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the
media and popular culture." Rape culture affects every woman, they say, due to the
"degradation, terror, and humiliation" the rape of a single woman brings to all. Examples of
rape culture are victim blaming, trivializing sexual assault, i. e. "Boys will be boys", and
teaching women to avoid getting raped, rather than by teaching men not to rape and more. The
combatance of rape can be achieved by thinking critically about the messages seen in the
media and popular culture (Example: Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines), not trivializing rape by
making jokes or using language to objectify or degrade women. All of these topics are
mentioned by the women's center as they work to destroy rape culture.