Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ending Rape Culture

In the light of the Steubenville rape case, the post I wrote yesterday and what Slice of Humble wrote today, I've seen almost unanimous agreement from both men and women that this has to stop.  That we have to slam our collective foot on the brakes until we grind it into the floorboards.  That something has to give.

But how?

How do we change a society that lacks empathy?

How do we put a stop to the sick things that the instant self gratification of the internet allows?

How do we teach children to respect others?

How do we ensure that victims can come forward safely?

It's a daunting task, for sure.  I know there are fellow writers attacking other angles of this, from the stigma of the victim label, to the life long effects on people, to the fact that rape doesn't just happen to drunk girls, to the fact that rape doesn't just happen to girls at all.

There are a few specific steps I have in mind, though, ways that we can reverse our society's distorted view of all this, ways that we can indeed take a stand.

Almost nothing changes overnight.  Almost nothing changes simply.  And almost all change starts with one person.


Here's how we start.

We need to fire politicians who don't get it.
Those who claim there are legitimate rapes and illegitimate ones. Those who claim that women cannot become impregnated from rape. Those who seem to think we have magic voodoo vaginas to protect us. Those who buy into the notion that it's perfectly acceptable to lay fault at the feet of the victims. Those who look for loopholes and exceptions.  Fire them.

We need to demand that the media do the right thing.
Victims cannot live in fear of being outed by the media.  Victims cannot be further victimized by reporters.  The media cannot package and sell to the American public the idea that some criminals are less liable because they once had promising futures.

We need to demand equal punishment of rapists.
The person who rapes someone in an alleyway is no different than the husband who rapes his wife in their marital bed.  The charming football coach raping children in the shower is no different than the knife wielding stranger.  Rape is rape is rape is rape.  It is all wrong.  It is all crime.  No one that perpetrates this crime should be viewed as less culpable because of anything else in their lives.  At that moment, they willfully violated another human being.  Period.

We need to extend the statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault.
Every state is different, and while some don't have a limit on the time to allege forcible rape, most states range between 2-7 years for offenses of lesser degrees.  One thing I am hearing over and over and over again from people sharing their stories is that it often takes years for the victim to come to terms with what happened to them, years before they tell anyone at all, let alone consider pressing charges.  These offenders walk free indefinitely.

We need to take the statistics seriously.

This graphic resides on the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network's website.

We need to act.
We need more women like the blogger who saved screenshots of the Twitter feed before postings were pulled and less of the kids who stood by idly while it all took place.  We need more people who are willing to tell on their friends when they brag about violating someone else.  We need adults to be brave enough to do the right thing, so that those adults can teach their children to be brave enough to do the right thing.  We can't stand back and shrug our shoulders and claim there is nothing we can do.  We can't.

We need to teach children empathy.
We absolutely need to do this, and too many adults need a refresher lesson themselves.  Our society sees nothing wrong with mocking other people on websites and reality shows. We love to see a hero fall from grace.  Children are born to be selfish.  Toddlers truly believe the world revolves around them.  A decade later, when that child has been catered to, coddled, enabled, they become teens with perhaps the strongest weapon we could give them - cameras and unfettered internet access.  Tell your kids no.  Hold them accountable.  Stop making excuses for their misbehavior.  Discipline them.  Teach them to volunteer for the less fortunate so that they will understand what it's like to have not. Teach them to care about other people, about strangers, about people they've never met.  Spy on them when they are on their phones and computers - make sure they do all those things, and be willing to take it all away if they aren't.  Is it hard?  Hell yes it is, but no one said parenting was easy.  Just do it.

We need to stop forgiving faults in exchange for talent.
Michael Vick can throw a ball, so we will forgive his dog fighting.  Ray Lewis tackled a lot of people, so we'll ignore that whole murder charge thing.  Chris Brown beat his girlfriend, but can sing a catchy tune.  Those kids in Ohio played football, so we'll try to cover up the rape.  No.  No, no, no.  I don't care how great someone is at something, if they have talents and abilities that most of us don't.  I don't care if they are popular and well-liked.  I don't care if they hold promise or have already accomplished great things.  A rapist is a rapist is a rapist.  No free passes, no lesser charges, no sympathy card.  We need to hold them all accountable.

Teach sex education, all of it.
Stop believing that if we teach children to be abstinent that they will be.  Stop falling for the idea that if we buy them a chastity ring and make them promise to wait that they will.  Some of them might, but most of them won' matter what you do.  We have to equip these children not just with the physical realities of their bodies and everyone else's, but with the realities of sexual abuse and assault.  They need to be taught that their bodies are their temples, their sacred places, that they belong to them only and that only they should decide what happens with them.  Then they need to be ingrained with the idea that the same holds true for  No one has the right to tell anyone else what to do, to force them to do it, to take the chance to do it of their own volition because someone is drunk and passed out.  We need to teach children about the ugly truths in life before they find out the hard way or hurt someone else.

Teach kids to drink responsibly.
This one will catch me some heat, I know it.  Maybe even more than the sex education idea.  Truth time again, mom and dad....ready?  Your kids are going to drink.  It doesn't matter if you tell them not to.  It doesn't matter if it's illegal.  It doesn't matter if they are underage.  They are going to do it.  The more I think about it, the more I realize we do it all wrong in this country.  In many European countries, the legal drinking age is 16, but you can't get a license to drive until you are much older.  Imagine that?  Imagine giving kids a few years to figure out how alcohol affects them before we put them behind the wheel and send them out into the world.  I'm not advocating that parents get their kids drunk, but I am very much advocating truthfulness between parents and kids about drinking.  About how much is too much.  About when to stop.  About how to identify when you need help.  About avoiding blackouts.  About keeping your senses about you.  About calling when you need a ride, or anything feels wrong.  About not being afraid to make that call because the child doesn't want to get in trouble.

I'm sure that there are more ideas out there, more ways to change this societal distortion.

Demand better.

Raise the Bar.


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