2012: The year of rape


We live in a society where rape is commonplace, regular, and very frequently overlooked in the legal system (unless it is in regards to boys, which then receives overwhelming outrage, as in the Penn State scandal). We have an overabundance of reported rapes (and please note, these all occurred in 2012):

  1. Notre Dame Football Rape, which resulted in the victim’s suicide.
  2. Steubenville, Ohio Football Gang Rape, which has been slow to prosecute because several of the ‘rape crew’ members are children of the Prosecuting Attorney and the local Sheriff.
  3. Texas Gang Rape of 11 Year-Old Girl, where the NY Times seems to blame the victim more than her attackers.
  4. India Gang Rape Resulted in Murder, which has sparked national outcry; in India.
  5. Muslim Brotherhood Paying Gangs to Rape Protesting Women, where little action has been taken to prevent this from continuing.
  6. California Court Overturning a Rape Conviction, because the victim was unmarried despite the fact that her rapist impersonated her boyfriend, and the law in question is from 1872.
  7. Connecticut Court Releases Accused Rapist, due to “insufficient evidence” of resistance to the attack, when the victim is severely disabled (unable to speak, can only move her right index finger, intellectual development of a 3 year-old).
  8. 14 Reports of Sexual Assault & Rape at Boston University, including two cases involving the Men’s Ice Hockey team. The campus also has a stairway that’s been deemed the “rape stairs.”
  9. Gang Rape of 14 Year-Old in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the men in question routinely plan to invite girls to parties with intention to get them drunk and rape them.
  10. 4 Middle Schoolers Gang Rape a 14-Year Old, in Ramapo, NY, where the rapists are only 12 & 13 years old. They also sexually abused a 12 year-old.
  11. East Stroudsburg University Students Abducted and Raped, where the victims were pulled inside an SUV.

I can’t even name 11 murders that have been so nationally displayed in the media (the two exceptions being the Newtown and Aurora shootings, as well as the death of the India gang rape victim) and the fact is, we should not have this many stories to be sharing. More frightening than anything, is that 6 of these were gang rapes, and the majority of them happened in the United States. 

We live in a culture where our politicians try to put a spin on rape (again, all from 2012, and not surprisingly, all Republican) whether it be legitimate, honest, a gift, an emergency:

  • Todd Akins – “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down”
  • Rick Santorum – “I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you… rape victims should make the best of a bad situation.”
  • Paul Ryan – believes that “rape is just another form of conception”
  • Roger Rivard – “some girls, they rape so easy”
  • Richard Mourdock – “Life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
  • Ron Paul – “If it’s an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room, I would give them a shot of estrogen.”
  • Linda McMahon – “It was really an issue about a Catholic church being forced to offer those pills if the person came in with an emergency rape

Of course, let’s not forget the law that several of the above individuals co-sponsored with the convenient re-definition of rape as “forcible.” (Because apparently there’s a non-forcible kind?)

And speaking of Laws, what about the failure to renew the Violence Against Women Act this year, which previously:

  • Required free access to forensic examinations and “rape kits” to victims after suffering a rape (source).
  • Created a “rape shield law,” which prevented offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct during a rape trial (source).
  • Established the National Domestic Violence Hotline (because spousal rape does happen, despite common misconception) (source).

As well as the progressive defunding of Planned Parenthood (which has been reintroduced in Congress, if you were not aware), which provides rape crisis and sexual assault services to victims.

Also, H.R. 1523 (112th): Safer Act of 2011, a bill designed to eliminate backlog of rape kits (which are essential to prosecuting rapists) was also killed in Congress, despite the fact that there are roughly 500,000 rape kits sitting in storage facilities, going untested (source). (Luckily, the Safer Act of 2012 was passed in Congress on Jan. 2nd, 2013, and potentially waiting for Obama’s signature.)

And, the proverbial cherry on top, the multitude of laws aimed to close abortion clinics, prevent access to said clinics, and retract the legalization of abortion, even in cases of rape, in Mississippi, Texas, Michigan, Virginia, Arizona, and others.

Not to mention the fact that at the low end of estimations, roughly 85,000 rapes occur in the United States annually, as compared to about20,000 murders (and that’s in terms of reported rapes – the believed number is somewhere closer to 680,000) (source & source).

I suppose the point of all this is;

Why is this obsession about rape not the positive kind?
Why are laws that help prevent and prosecute rapes being stalled in congress?
Why are we only hearing about gang rapes due to a lack of legal actions, instead of hearing about successful convictions?
Why are we defunding programs that provide essential access to rape survivors? Why are women’s fundamental rights even in question when it comes to such a physical violation of her body?
Why are men trying to redefine and put a silver lining on rape, instead of aggressively attacking the fact that it is so prevalent in our society?
Why do we have mainstream media sources that put more blame on the victims than the attackers?

Why are we still allowing laws from 1872 to determine the validity of what was quite clearly and inarguably a rape?
Why is every 1 in 3 women suffering from sexual assault in the course of their lifetime?
Why do 97% of our country’s rapists walk free?
Why are 400,000-500,000 rape kits that are stored in crime labs throughout the United States not prioritized above all else (except potentially murder).
Why are rapes occurring at higher volumes than murders and other violent crimes, but not given anywhere near the prominence in regards to legal action?

We need to shift our society’s rape culture to become one of prevention and prosecution, not shame and satire. We need to acknowledge the severity of the problem, not joke it up. We need to embrace victims with empathy and compassion for their suffering when they summon up the courage to confront their attackers, not blame them for their misfortune. We need to remove the taboo and stigma that we place upon the victims. We need to stop asking what the victim said, did, or wore to prompt the violence bestowed upon them, and instead focus upon the mentality of the rapists. We need to teach “don’t rape” instead of “don’t get raped.” We need to fight back the fear of speaking out; we need to all shout at the top of our voices that rape is rape, no matter the time, the place, whether you were drinking or drugged, asleep or sober, wearing  onesie pajamas or a mini skirt, regardless of if you fought back, screamed for help, or suffered in silence, afraid for your life.

And this is where we start: February 14th, 2013. http://onebillionrising.org/ One Billion Rising, a global effort to speak out and stand up against the sexual violence. There are risings happening everywhere: New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Lima, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Istanbul, Barcelona, Nairobi, Islamabad, New Dehli, Tehran, Bangkok; find one and help support this monumental effort to stop this unspeakable violence. Please, take part in this rising, and help take one more step towards preventing future victims.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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