On Tuesday, August 24th, the 103rd rape since 2005 and the 78th rape since 2015 occured at the FIJI fraternity house of University of Nebraska Lincoln. The following days and nights, hundreds of college students could be heard chanting, “No more rapists in our faces.”.
Due to over half of all the rapes reported to UNL having been in the last six years, the topic of sexual assault and harassment has been brought to light to the students and the state of Nebraska once again.
Unfortunately, statistical numbers do not include the numerous rapes that go unreported. In fact, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), more than 2 out of 3 sexual assaults will go unreported to authorities.
One reason for this is the rise of rape culture. Rape culture is defined by Marshall University as “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women [or men] is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.” It is “perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence.”
The effects of rape culture are appalling. Rape and sexual assault can cause emotional, psychological, and physical distress to a victim, even well after the event. Some examples stated by RAINN include depression, PTSD, and flashbacks.
Research done by associate professor of sociology at West Virginia University Karen G. Weiss revealed that, in many cases, the victim may either blame themselves, feeling ashamed for what happened to them, or even fail to realize that what happened to them was sexual assault. This stops them from coming forward.
“Ambiguity reflects the difficulties of recognizing crime due to cultural messages that trivialize certain situations as normal or as an inevitable part of youth,” Weiss said. “Ambivalence protects teens, at least temporarily, from social disapproval and interpersonal conflict associated with disclosing peer offenses.” Essentially, this means that denying or contradicting the seriousness of an assault can protect a victim from the judgement or loss of friends; especially if it was a friend who committed the act.
Since there is already so much societal pressure on these individuals, support is very helpful. According to clinical therapist Ebony McClain, to provide support for those who have gone through this kind of trauma, people should act with “empathy and compassion and validation of the experience.”
Another important point to stress is that a rape is not the fault of the victim, but entirely the rapist’s. Studies show that motives of a rapist can include a lack of empathy, narcissism, toxic masculinity or even a deep-rooted hostility towards women, none of which can be controlled by the victim, yet, more than half of the time, victims blame themselves.
As a community, we need to stand together against this issue. Although it may never go away, supporting each other and doing our part to combat the toxicity of rape culture will lead to a better future for us all.