While this article is discussing the pervasiveness of rape by men against women, the danger presented by rape culture makes this everyone’s issue. Rape Culture is a term often used to describe a very dangerous and dominant form of social conditioning that is becoming an increasingly integrated component of our culture. In spite of the dominant nature, most people are unaware of what rape culture is or how to recognize it.
Marshall University defined the term: “Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.
Rape Culture affects every woman. The rape of one woman is a degradation, terror, and limitation to all women. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That’s how rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population is held in a subordinate position to the whole male population, even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape.”
To understand what rape culture actually entails, we need to understand that it is not necessarily a special group or society of people that outwardly promotes rape. Rather, we are talking about cultural practices that excuse or otherwise tolerate sexual violence. We are talking about the way we collectively think about and tolerate rape. Rape culture is reflected in situations in which sexual assault, general violence, rape are ignored, normalized, made into jokes and trivialized.
Aspects of Rape Culture:
- Calling women liars and attention seekers or not taking them seriously when they finally have the guts to report their rapes, especially on college campuses.
- People who tend to think, “She dressed to be raped,” or, “She shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”
- Rape jokes, people that tell them, and people that defend them.
- There are some in the media who substitute the word “sex” for “rape” as if they are the same thing.
- Supporting the athletes who are/were charged with rape and calling their victims “haters.”
- Politicians attempting to distinguish “legitimate rape” and stating that rape is “something that God intended to happen,” among other claims.
- Assuming that false reporting for sexual assault cases are the norm, when in reality, they represent only 2-8%. This is the same number of false reports for auto theft, a crime that is treated with far more seriousness and prosecuted more vigorously by society at large.
Though it seems like a paradox, rape culture exists because we don’t believe it does. When there is an acceptance of misogyny from casual conversations with our friends, we accept the degradation of women and conceive uncontrollable hyper-sexuality of men as the norm. When we create double-standards for women and men in similar situations we create excuses that would-be rapists can tell themselves. No excuse for bringing harm to another person should be tolerated. Rape and rape culture are extreme injustices against society. Allah (SWT) commands us,
“O you who believe, be strict in upholding justice and bear witness for the sake of God, even though it be against yourselves, your parents, or your kindred. Be they rich or poor, God knows better about them both. Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice. If you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that God is well aware of all that you do” (Noble Qur’an 4:135)
Therefore it is our obligation to Allah to seek justice for the victims of rape and domestic violence.
What can be done to contribute to ending rape culture? There are many steps we can take.
- We need to name the real problem which is violent misogyny and victim blaming. If an accusation of rape comes, allow the truth to bear itself out instead of making assumptions about the accuser.
“Truth stands out clear from Error” (Noble Qur’an 2:256)
- We have to understand that rape is not normal nor is it a natural masculine urge. We have to be more media literate. When there is media around reporting, we have to ask the right questions so that the media does not profit off the objectification of women.
- Do not make fun of rape or allow others around you to speak lightly of rape. Obviously most people are not rapists, however most rapists do believe that everyone does it. Your laughter at a rape joke tells people that you think rape is acceptable.
- As clear as you may be about your own rejection of rape culture, when someone uses demeaning language referring to women, stop him and advise him about the danger of his words.
Allah’s Messenger related the words of Allah in Hadith Qudsi which states,“I shall take revenge on the oppressor in this world and the next. I shall take revenge on someone who saw the person being oppressed and was able to help him but did not”
Sexual assault (rape) and domestic violence are clear instances of oppression. In order to be faithful Muslims, we MUST act out against the presence of this invisible demon of rape culture. It is no surprise that we would refuse to acknowledge that rape and sexual violence has become the norm rather than exception. The truth is ugly. But by denying the obvious we continue to allow rapists to go unpunished and leave survivors silenced.
Remember: Rape culture exists because we don’t believe that it does.