Rape culture is a pervasive force throughout the world; however, it can be especially damaging and amplified for teenagers in American high schools.
One in six American men are abused before the age of 18, and one in five American women survive rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Rape culture is a concept that links rape and sexual violence to a society’s dominant culture, causing prevalent attitudes and practices to normalize, excuse, and even condone rape. Although a large portion of our population denies and ignores the existence of such a culture, it’s a very real dimension of our society that needs to be acknowledged in order to be solved. Rape culture exists today because of the socially constructed tolerance for the objectification and domination of women. However, I would like to note that rape is not solely perpetrated by males nor does it only happen between a man and a women. Regardless of gender or sexuality, rape is an issue.
Because the culture becomes so ingrained, people argue that this behavior is completely “normal”. I am not satisfied living in a world where rape is a cultural norm. The statistics concerning rape are not simply shocking, they represent real people: people you’re friends with, people you pass in the streets, people of all genders, and those you haven’t even met. Yet, these millions of survivors don’t raise their collective voices to educate this society about our culture of rape out of fear. We must not flee from this issue just because it makes us uncomfortable. For the sake of the victims of rape or any form of sexual assault, and for the sake of future generations of girls and boys and those in between, we cannot afford to ignore rape culture.
Common effects of sexual assault/rape
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder): Includes nightmares, sexual dysfunction, flashbacks, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable ruminations.
- Major Depressive Disorder: Prolonged feelings of emptiness, sadness, loss of energy, lack of sleep, loss of interest in activities typically enjoyed
- Drug Abuse: Dependence on drugs/alcohol to disassociate and avoid pain
Call to Action
With problems and cultures as big as this, it can often feel too overwhelming or hard to consider how to make change. However, even as high schoolers, it’s entirely possible to create positive, long lasting impacts in our communities.
At a micro-level, call out your friends. If you see a peer make a rape joke or catcall someone, it’s easy to take just one second to say “Hey, that isn’t cool.” If you want to have a longer talk with that friend or peer, maybe remind them how a rape joke or harassment inherently jeopardizes the self-ownership of an individual’s body.
At a slightly larger scale: Start a club! Raise awareness! At most schools, it’s relatively easy to ask your administration to create a student group dedicated to raising awareness about sexual assault, discussing prevention. and discussing #Me Too. Groups like these have the potential to perpetuate real change in communities and provide open spaces for students to have important dialogue.
Similarly, get educated and understand what types of change need to take place in your community. Last year, a friend and I were reading our school’s policy for reporting sexual misconduct, and realized that it lacked transparency, support, and action. So, we brought it to our dean of student life and head of school and they agreed it needed work. The administration let my friend and I completely rewrite our policy, and we spent months researching to create a policy we believed could make a true impact on the school. Here’s a link to the final result! https://drive.google.com/file/d/1B9M6wIgY7fmOdodNMxdZRobG1G7wcwK7/view
About the Author
Hi! My name is Jill Roberts and I’m a senior in high school. I currently live in San Francisco, California and will be attending NYU next year to pursue a career in English Education!