Rape Culture didn’t start with #MeToo

While the #MeToo movement has made successful inroads in opening up more discussions about consent and sexual assault in this country, it’s wise to remember that Rape Culture has existed here since America’s founding. What is Rape Culture, you ask? Basically, it’s a sociological concept that describes a society in which rape and sexual assault is normalized because of the social mores centered around gender and sexuality. Some modern-day examples of this include, but are not limited to: victim blaming, sexual objectification, denial of rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence, and trivializing rape or assault.

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One of the things that really frosts my cookies with critics of this current atmosphere is when I hear them question the timing of the victim’s reveal or accusation. It’s even more frustrating when those seeds of doubt are sown by other women. I often ask myself if these female naysayers are completely daft or deliberately obtuse. Either way, it’s maddening. Women should be rallying to help other women and to hold the line together.

It’s naïve to think that with the Fifteenth Amendment in 1919 and much later, the Women’s Movement, this kind of archaic mentality in the United States ceased to exist. Even now, with the #MeToo movement, we hear women being blamed and shamed for ruining the careers of famous men everywhere from the Silicon Valley and Hollywood to the United States government and institutions of higher education. Rape Culture reinforces the belief that women are merely property and second class citizens. It’s irresponsible and dangerous.

I find it tragic that while we encourage and applaud inspirational women like Oprah, Brene Brown, and Sheryl Sandberg, we vilify the brave victims who have survived rape or sexual assault and question the validity of their claims and agenda. Apparently, it’s too uncomfortable to have to think about heinous male behavior and it’s much easier to just subjugate women instead. Words like “hysterical” and “manipulative” to describe women in Rape Culture (the etymology of both words are not lost on me, BTW) infuriate me. They add insult to injury both literally and figuratively.

The figures from RAINN are sobering:

Out of 1,000 cases of rape, 994 perpetrators walk free. 

Two out of three cases of rape are never reported because of the victim’s fear of retaliation or that their account won’t be believed.

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If another woman is telling you her story, listen. Use it as an opportunity to support her and to bear witness to her pain. Don’t dismiss or diminish what you may not understand. Encourage her to report the crime if she hasn’t already. Let her know she’s not alone.

To find out how you can do your part to help end Rape Culture check out these websites:

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)

AVP  (The Anti-Violence Project)

NSVRC  (National Sexual Violence Resource Center)

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Mimi Bergman is a business owner, historian, wife, and mom. She’s an ardent feminist, Zionist, and activist. Mimi is a fourth generation Chicago Cubs baseball fan.