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“Media must stop encouraging a rape culture”
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“Media must stop encouraging a rape culture”

Janine WanAn alarming trend that normalises sexual abuse has become known as ‘rape culture’, writes Janine Wan, 15, a Commonwealth Correspondent based in Melbourne, Australia. She says in some cases, the legal system and media are contributors to that unsavoury culture.

One out of every six American women, and one out of every 33 American men, has been the victim of attempted or completed sexual assault, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). RAINN estimates that 15 per cent of such victims are under the age of 12.

Traditionally, emphasis is put on what the woman should do to protect herself from rape. Women are told to avoid unsafe areas and to dress conservatively, so as not to attract unwanted attention. Such tips are wise, but, unfortunately, serve to allow for victim-blaming. When a girl is raped, it is not uncommon to hear people say that “she shouldn’t have dressed like that”, or that “it was her own fault”. Many people do not stop to consider what led the rapists to believe that their behaviour was appropriate in the first place.

Rape victims bear the brunt of jokes about and promotion of rape in the media. Rape jokes have grown increasingly common, and many people have grown insensitive to these jibes at the victims of attempted or completed sexual assault. In addition to jokes, many song and rap lyrics also imply that rape is something to be glorified. In the lyrics of a song by Tyler the Creator, entitled ‘Tron Cat”, Tyler says that that he would “rape a pregnant bitch and tell [his] friends [he] had a threesome”.

It is clear that something has to be done about the normalisation of sexual abuse. What has become known as ‘rape culture’ is unacceptable, and must be stopped. However, this cannot be done without the support of those in the legal system.

In an interview several months ago, Director of Public Prosecutions (Hong Kong), Kevin Zervos, encouraged victims of indecent assault in some cases to show their attackers compassion if it is their first offense, calling to question whether the action was social misbehaviour or a crime. Personally, I believe that it is a crime. Rape traumatises and ignores the rights of its victims. Though Zervos stressed a binding-over order was not a let-off, this trivialising of rape in the legal system may make potential offenders believe that they will be defended should they engage in rape, encouraging them to do so. If prosecutors are lenient towards sex offenders, then even fewer rape cases will be reported. As it is, 54 per cent of rape cases are not reported to the police, according to RAINN.

In August 2012, the infamous Steubenville rape case occurred in the United States. A teenage girl snuck out to a party and passed out after a night of too many drinks. She was then taken advantage of by two high school football players, who took her to other parties. Later, she was taken advantage of repeatedly. In a horrendous turn of events, a highly degrading photo was taken of the girl, posted online and distributed among other teens. A twelve-minute video of the alleged rape was also posted online, complete with taunts in it from friends of the rapists. 

Despite all of the evidence against the rapists, some people still believed that the girl had been lying about being raped. One of the Steubenville football team’s volunteer coaches even claimed that she had been lying to protect herself, and “people [were] trying to blow up [their] football program because of it.” In the end, the two teenagers responsible for the rape were sentenced to at least one and two years, respectively, in the juvenile detention system. In comparison, a member of the hacktivist group Anonymous who helped to expose these rapists may spend up to ten years in jail. See here: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/06/07/2119171/anonymous-hacker-steubenville-jail/

Sexual assault cases will never be stopped if rape continues to be encouraged in the media, and through rape culture. We need to speak out against this normalisation of sexual assault, so that one day we may bring an end to sexual violence.

photo credit: WeNews via photopin cc

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About me: I am a 15-year-old student in Melbourne, but have been brought up in both America and Singapore. I love to read, to write and to eat pizza. I also love tinkering with gadgets, though I’m not very good at that. My superpower of choice would be enhanced intelligence, so I could do and build things to defy the constraint of time and space. I do my best writing while procrastinating, which I do rather often.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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