Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rape Culture - The Post I Said I Wouldn't Write

I kept trying not to post about the recent verdict in the Steubenville Rape trial but people keep pushing my buttons.

I will not attempt to justify the verdict, nor will I swear against it. These boys are young. They were not tried as adults because they are not adults. I do believe, however, that they know right from wrong. But there is a bigger issue. Before we turn them into villains we need to recognize the rape culture around us. The culture that gave these boys the impression that this was funny. Because they weren't born believing that raping a girl on video was comical. This was a concept handed to them. By our media. By the things we support. By the things we laugh at. This was learned behavior and we need to blame those teaching this behavior as well as the boys acting on it. That is, we need to blame ourselves. 

This was horrific. They deserve punishment. But they are also not alone. Singling them out doesn't do any good. 

This is not the first or last case of this nature, this is simply the case that went viral. There is no rhyme or reason to what goes viral and I pity the families on both sides for drawing the short straw.

Our country is supportive of rape culture. No matter how many commercials and memes swear against it we continue to blame the victim. We look down on women in short skirts and venerate or at least excuse men who take advantage of that. We blame the woman for being a slut and assume the man can't help himself because he's driven through life by his hormones. This isn't always conscious effort, but it is always there.

These boys weren't driven by hormones. They didn't do this to get something out of it sexually. They assaulted this girl because our culture has taught them that taking power over a woman will grant them something. It will grant them prestige and respect. They shared this with their friends because they wanted their friends to look up to them. They believed that this series of actions was admirable to their friends. These were not sexually perverse men living out some fantasy. These are boys who have been taught messed up lessons. Boys who, hopefully, will learn this lesson. Unfortunately statistics show us prison doesn't generally have a positive affect on minors, but that's a different argument.

I don't dismiss their actions or believe that the blame should be taken from them. In the end they chose their actions. They deserve punishment. But there is a bigger picture and a bigger problem. Don't lose sight of that by arguing over one case when there are, and will be, others.

The amount of people who have said, "She shouldn't have gotten that drunk without expecting something bad to happen," makes my blood curdle. This sentence should not exist. Rape is not a punishment for underage drinking. It is not a justification for what happened to her at the hands of boys she knew, boys she went to school with. It certainly does not excuse the attempt to cover up the situation by the adults in this girl's life.

And then people keep asking, "What if it was your daughter/sister/niece?" So I began to wonder. What if it WAS my niece. What would I say?

This is my answer.

I want my niece to know that she shouldn't get intoxicated.
But that if she does no one else has the right to claim sovereignty over her body.

I want her to know that rape culture is a thing of the past and that nothing about it is funny.

I want my niece to know that her teachers, coaches, police and family will do everything and anything to protect her.

And in the horrific event that a rapist snuck through her door no one would blame her.

I want my niece to wear whatever clothes she enjoys in whatever color, size, fabric she prefers. 
I want her to be just as safe in cardigans and long skirts as she is in bathing suits and tank tops.

I want my niece to respect herself.

I want my niece to be proud that she is a woman. 
And I want her to be surrounded by people who recognize her worth.

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