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Part of: Rape culture and consent

Rape Culture

Rape Culture is a term used to define a set up in society in which “rape and sexual abuse is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.” (Wikipedia)

Rape culture permeates and affects everyone, no matter their gender identity. It strips agency from the bodies of survivors, sets harmful hetero-normative (a cis man must be like this, a cis woman must be like that, and non-binary and trans people are something else entirely) ideas about our rights and sexuality, and creates an atmosphere where our bodies feel like items for people to feel entitled to, and which we cannot control or own ourselves. Rape culture perpetuates victim-blaming which places the responsibility for rape on the victim, not the perpetrator. Victim-blaming excuses rape and sexual violence and can prevent survivors from seeking support as they fear being judged and blamed for their experience. Rape and sexual violence are never the survivor’s fault.

Around the world there are examples of survivors refusing to accept the holds that rape culture attempts to have on society. In Central and South America for example thousands of women from Chile and Australia participated in a public feminist performance piece “A rapist in your way” (“Un violador en tu camino”). It’s even been translated into sign language. This is their lyrical and visual antidote to historical argument that it is the fault of the women of Chile for being raped or murdered, and helps to remind us all of the problems with victim-blaming from rape culture. It also points a finger at the government institutions responsible for the continued perpetration of violence against us. A new generation is demanding change and working together to cast off the entrenched notions that we somehow provoke attacks against us.

To take up space by not making ourselves small, and claiming our rights and knowing our worth - this is an act of rebellion. We are told that people will leer and act out at our presence, so we learn to lower our own gaze, look away, cover ourselves up, stay silent, change our clothes or take a different route. By refusing to accept this behaviour, whether inside our head or standing up to the harasser (if safe) or reporting them (if possible), we take up the space that has been denied to us, and remove it from those who think they have a right to it. This same thinking framework can be applied to other forms of sexual abuse. If you ever think “well at least what happened to me wasn’t as bad as what happened to them”, just remember that all types of abuse are bad, though some can cause more harm and trauma than others. No matter how small you think an abusive action is, you did not deserve it.