There's been a lot happening with regard to rape in our world, lately. It's been a fascinating and disgusting public debate and I have been struggling to decide what my two cents are and if they're worth adding to the cacophony. But it comes down to the fact that crying out in public against rape and against the public perception of rape is, at present, the only defense we've got.
There was this gang rape in India in January, and then another earlier this week. The nation is looking at harsher punishments for perpetrators of rape.
Then there was the incredible documentary The Invisible War, a story about which I heard on NPR this morning. This documentary looks at the incredible patterns of sexual assault in the US military.
On Monday, we heard the guilty verdict in the Steubenville, OH case of two high school boys who raped a female classmate after she was drunk to the point of unconsciousness.
There are no cases of rape that are not tragic.
The way that we as a nation and world respond to these instances, though, is what has been very painful this week. You've probably seen a bunch of stories about how CNN sympathized with the rapists and how plenty of Americans lashed out at the victim, too.
What drives me up a wall in these instances is that the rape culture in which we live allows for us to place blame on these women/girls for the deplorable actions taken by these men/boys. That the "education" initiatives surrounding rape are victim-centered rather than perpetrator-centered. We teach our young girls that rape is practically inevitable (which is hard to argue with, as 1 in 6 women have been sexually assaulted).
What we're not teaching our young people is to respect themselves and to respect one another, and to value each others' lives. In this Steubenville case in particular, the terrifying reality is that these boys did not understand completely that what they were doing was illegal or wrong or even that it was rape. They and countless other teenage boys across this nation do not understand that the bodies of their female friends/classmates/neighbors/etc do not belong to them.
Yes, for all of us avid Law and Order: SVU watchers, there are serial rapists out there who are violent criminals whose problems are larger than these. But there are plenty of date rapists and spousal rapists and rapists like these boys who are not convinced that anything they have done is wrong.
This must stop.
It seems absolutely insane to have to keep repeating that any non-consenual sexual activity is rape. And that anyone who has not said "yes" has, therefore, not consented. And that anyone who is physically incapable of saying "yes" has, therefore, not consented. And that what someone is wearing or how much someone has had to drink has no bearing on their consent. And that someone who has said "yes" before (like a partner or spouse) does not automatically consent in all times and all places.
It just doesn't seem that complicated to me.
If you want to read some very passionate responses to our dear nation's epidemic of rape, check out my two favorites from this week:
"The Egregious, Awful, and Downright Wrong Reactions to the Steubenville Rape Trial Verdict," Doug Barry
And then don't rape anyone. And then don't let anyone get away with raping anyone. And then never stop talking about rape culture. And then teach your children not to be rapists. Cool. Thanks.