Did you see what she was wearing?
Boys will be boys!
She was asking for it.
Sound familiar? These are common phrases we hear often that revolve around—and attempt to justify—sexual assault. While movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp are trying to combat these misconceptions of sexual assault, they’re still too common for comfort. In fact, misconceptions of sexual assault are not only being used as justifications, but they’re headlining articles all over the Internet. Below are some real headlines—and why they’re completely false.
In this article, Matt Walsh argues that rape culture is an ideal that feminists have made up in order to “advance their agenda.” However, research is saying otherwise. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 U.S. women and 1 in 71 U.S. men will be raped at some point in their lives. If that isn’t considered a rape epidemic, then what will? 1 in 3 women? 1 in 10 men? These stats show that rape is way more common than it should be, and the fact that people are trying to argue that rape culture is part of some fictitious agenda are undermining the commonality of this violent crime.
Here, we have Freddy Gray arguing that it’s not rape culture that exists in the West—it’s a bunch of feminists wanting to feel persecuted and draw attention to themselves. I would like to bring up my point from above—if 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men is not enough to constitute as rape culture, then what statistic will? Part of what’s encouraging this rape culture is also belittling women when they try to stand up against sexual violence, which is what women were doing in Canada when Gray decided to claim that they were creating a victim culture.
Here, Emily Yoffe argues that women are “rendering themselves defenseless” against perpetrators due to their alcohol consumption, and they’re failing to be responsible for themselves. However, she’s missing one key point here: why are we teaching our girls, “Don’t get raped; limit what you drink!” instead of teaching others, “Hey, if they’ve had too much to drink, then maybe save the moves for a time when they’re sober”? Millions of people partake in drinking. To say that sexual assault is caused by how much the individual drinks is removing the guilt from the responsible party—the perpetrator him or herself.
In an interview with Radio Times, actress Angela Lansbury claims that rape is partly a woman’s fault due to the fact that she tries to make herself more attractive. This coincides with the common “Did you see what she was wearing?” stereotype. If this were true, then why do we have, according to RAINN, 63,000 children being sexually abused a year in the U.S. alone? Were those children trying to make themselves more sexually attractive? In 2013, Jen Brockman created an art exhibit filled with clothes that women were wearing when they were raped. There were all types of outfits: a t-shirt and jeans, a little girl’s dress, and so on. The project was not made up of arrays of mini skirts and skin tight dresses. Sorry, Angela, but people are raped regardless of how attractive they look that day.
Obviously, the misconceptions don’t stop here. Stereotypes of sexual assault are real and more common than you think, and they affect victims - whether this be victim blaming, assuming it’s a false allegation...the list goes on. These harmful ideas have real impact on rape victims, as they discredit stories of sexual assault and excuse the harm done by perpetrators. It’s up to us to fight these myths that have become so ingrained in our everyday culture.