A Response to the Phrase "Don’t Get Raped"

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By Dvita Kapadia

It was the kind of day where you could smell the rain in the air. Standing at the bus stop on the edge of the sidewalk having just hopped off the rumbling school bus, everything seemed to be occurring through a theater screen. One moment I was fantasizing about the food I was going to scarf down upon reaching home and the other I felt the unstable thumph thum thum thumph thumph of terror. It all happened in fast succession: the girl running to the crowd at the bus stop, green girdle tied around her school uniform unraveling around her waist, the man following her, big arms, big shoulders, big fists, big eyes alight with the red blaze of lust and anger, an anger shaped around the fact that the girl he lusted had the audacity to say no to him after wearing the school dress that barely covered her knees and the rogue behavior that led her to believe that she had any ounce of right over her own body, but it was all also painfully slow, each moment amplified with a new layer of fear.

Thirty two percent of sexual assaults are reported. Two percent of reported rapists are convicted by law.

When speaking of rape, we often advocate the idea that victims should be held responsible for keeping themselves safe. While this is a good precautionary measure, we should focus more on teaching perpetrators not to rape rather than teaching victims how not to be raped. This will reduce the prevalence of rape culture by not only blaming the perpetrator rather than the victim, but also de-normalizing rape and allowing victims to speak forth without fear. Hence, this will lead to the apprehension of more perpetrators and a lessened rape rate.

68% of sexual assaults are not reported. The question remains: why? There are an array of reasons that victims can provide to justify their complete inability to report assault: “My skirt was too short”, “I acted too flirty”, “I was scared”, “I thought it was normal.” There is a common factor in all of these reasons – rape culture is cultivated due to victim-blaming. Throughout society, rape is considered a normal occurrence. It is not always deemed negative, because it’s barely talked about at all. The absence of openness about rape inflicts fear in victims; they figure since it's not talked about, it is either normal or doesn’t happen very much and is in turn their fault. This leads to self-blame- since it was the victim's fault,they must have done something wrong, was the skirt too short, the personality too irresistible, the body asking to be assaulted? Our culture tends to entertain the idea that rape is in fact the victim's fault. As the satire displayed in the cartoon attached below remarks, blaming the victim for providing a body to be raped is equivalent to blaming business owners for providing possessions to be stolen.

The first step to overcoming rape culture is to stop victim blaming. Next time you catch victim-blaming, put an end to it. When you hear something along the lines of, “Barbara got raped”, stop and correct the sentence – “Bob raped Barabara." It is not Barabara’s fault. Next time you hear, “Your hair is too long, you’ll get raped.” Stop. Long hair doesn’t give you the right to rape me, just like seeing you without headgear  does not give me the right to hit you across the head. If you hear someone say, “That test raped me." Stop. Using the word ‘rape’ in a simplistic, informal sense normalizes a crime that should be treated to the extreme. Next time you hear them teach us, “Don’t get raped.” Stop. Tell them to destroy the cause of the problem, to teach us something simpler. “Don’t rape."

The reason for the lack of rapist convictions lies in the complex laws associated with rape. It is a complicated crime, filled with labyrinths of “ifs,” “excepts,” and “maybes.” However, every labyrinth has a destination. It is in the judicial power to formulate the map to a decision. During this time, there is often a slip-up: perpetrators are not convicted. The solution to this is rather simple: rapists should be deemed guilty until proven innocent. This sounds harsh, but it is the only way to lower rape rates. Just like you wouldn’t want a terrorist to go free, you wouldn’t want a rapist to do so either. Initiating the “guilty until proven innocent” phenomena will do two things. First, it will inflict a greater fear in rapists, forcing them to rethink their actions. Second, it will make victims feel safer by giving them the assurance that the rapist will not be let free until it is proven that you are wrong. Essentially, this will raise the rate of reported rapes.

This topic hits me close to the heart. It was the kind of day in which everyone wishes it would just rain, but not even a tear is dropped to quench the parched souls. Freshman year, I was walking home from musical rehearsal, Xanadu songs playing on repeat under my breath. A boy I’d barely talked to came up to me. He talked, I walked. I barely communicated with him. All of a sudden, his hand snaked out and squeezed my breast. Now, I know this is nowhere near rape, but it is sexual assault (and it took me a surprisingly long time to figure out why I felt so uncomfortable about it to figure that out). It took me six months to tell anybody what "had happened", rather what he’d done to me. Why? I have an array of reasons. I was scared. I thought it was incredibly stupid to make a big deal out of it. What if nobody believed me? It was my fault, anyway. I shouldn’t have been walking alone. This immense fear engulfed, and still does as I write about it. A fear so irrevocably self-destroying that I hope dearly that nobody has to go through that looming fear of the unknown. If I had known that it wasn’t normal, it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t stupid, maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t have let the fear entrap me whole.

The first steps to stopping rape culture are to stop blaming victims, end the normalization of rape, and implement laws that will help decrease rape rates. Next time someone confesses a crime made against them, listen. Tell them that it isn’t their fault, that you’re proud of them for telling you, and tell them that they should report the crime. Remember, you are part of society. And with all the you’s out there, we can make an us. And united, we stand. United, we conquer the world.

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