Rape culture, whether we believe in it or not, is a reality which we all submit to and participate in as members of a community. We live under a culture wherein rape is seen as an inevitability; an unfortunate, yet typical, fact of life.
Though it may barely register for the offender, rape stays with the victim forever. Even “minor” instances of sexual harassment, such as catcalling or groping, are likely to traumatize victims.
The preservation of rape culture only draws out the pervasive epidemic of sexual violence in America and abroad. An American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds, according to Rainn; one in six females have experienced sexual assault; one in 10 victims of rape are male; and 21% of transgender, genderqueer and nonconforming college students have been sexually assaulted.
Just as you likely know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault or rape, you likely know an assaulter or rapist. Otherwise kind and well-liked members of the community can successfully hide monstrous private lives.
In August, former LSU student and running back Derrius Guice was accused of rape by two female alums, one of whom was a former tennis player at the University.
Despite both victims reporting the incidents to the University, neither were ever investigated by the Title IX office. A campus nurse who corresponded with one of the women admitted the incident would probably “get pushed under the rug.” The incident even came to the attention of Coach Ed Orgeron, who reportedly reduced the alleged rape to a sexist comment, remarking, “Everybody’s girlfriend sleeps with other people.”
Enablers will continue to dismiss allegations and protect abusers, especially when doing so lines up with their own social or political motivations. Addressing horrific rape allegations goes hand-in-hand with personal accountability.
If we are to dismantle rape culture, we must approach it both personally and politically. We must de-platform and discourage abusers within our communities and larger institutions.
Through policy, we can secure funds for survivors’ services while ensuring those services are held accountable. That means seeking solutions that benefit survivors, deliver justice and reduce the probability of harm moving forward. The University’s alleged response to Guice’s accusers show we have particular work to do in our immediate community.
Another vital service for victims of rape is access to abortion. Like it or not, survivors should have options in approaching a pregnancy resulting from rape. The state has no business limiting access to essential medical procedures, as that only further violates a victim’s bodily autonomy.
Both Joe Biden and Donald Trump have an obscene number of sexual misconduct and rape allegations against them. Judging from our current political climate, you probably believe at least one—if not both—of these men is a rapist. With all the public scrutiny such influential figures have weathered successful in the past, we must question: is the system indifferent to rape? Are we?
Culture is built on individual values. When alleged rapists—or admitted ones—prevail in the public eye and even go on to win elections, our values are exposed through democracy.
Keeping our principles in check is necessary to dismantling rape culture. No matter any inconvenience it could bring, we must believe and amplify survivors’ stories. By discouraging enabling behaviors such as misogynist comments and victim-blaming, we can create a more just society.
Rapists and abusers have no place in our social circles, popular media or political offices. If we truly wish to address the pandemic of sexual violence, we’ll have to contend with these facts and change course.
Kevin Doucette is a 20-year-old political science junior from New Orleans.