No Is the New Yes

Atira Nair, Staff Writer

Last January, the rape of a young college student and the outrageous verdict given to the perpetrator sparked outrage nationwide. The Stanford rape case is one of many cases in the U.S. that emphasizes the depth of rape culture in our society. Even though we might believe that America is always progressive, in reality, the U.S. still has work to do when it comes to rape policy. Even now, many victims are struggling to find justice, because rape is still debated constantly. However, the definition should not be so complicated. Rape is when sexual intercourse occurs when consent has not been given. Rape is still rape if consent was given, but revoked. It is still rape if the person is intoxicated or not conscious enough to give consent, if any sexual activity occurs without the person’s consent, and if it occurs between spouses or any domestic relationship. Recently, there have been cases upon cases of rape where the victim is blamed or the perpetrator is left unharmed. To combat this, it is vital that societal and political changes be made in order to halt the spread of rape culture that is prominent in the United States.

There are many unresolved rape cases in which the perpetrator does not get convicted, due to loopholes or societal values. For instance, in the Stanford rape case, Brock Turner digitally raped another student while they were both intoxicated. Turner defended himself by claiming that the act was consensual, despite clear evidence of the victim’s unconscious state. USA Today reported that Turner’s father also tried defending him by claiming that a lengthy prison sentence is  “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” This statement just reveals how prominent rape culture is in the U.S. It only affected Turner for 20 minutes, however, it will affect the victim for her entire life. Due to this, the judge only gave Turner a six month prison sentence (which was cut short by 3 months for good behavior), claiming “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.” The judge’s bias and sympathy towards the assailant rather than the actual victim impacted his verdict, revealing how rape culture is evident in the U.S. in the way people excuse the perpetrator’s actions and fail to bring justice for the victims.

Rape culture is a real issue in the United States. It encourages male aggression and entitlement, due to the reinforced yet incorrect idea that men are naturally inclined towards violence and assault. Rape culture is defined in the way many people flippantly say things such as: “boys will be boys,” implying that boys are not responsible for their actions and that it is the victims who are to blame in their own assault. This only further increases the rate of rape crimes and is not at all valid. Men are responsible for their actions and just as it is for other serious offenses, they should suffer the consequences. Furthermore, many people imply that rape victims are to blame for their assault. They defend rapists by claiming that rape occurred in part because of the victim’s clothing, outer appearance, or actions. This is an atrocious claim, because people do not wear what they wear or act the way they do to actively initiate rape. Although rape leaves a lasting impact on the lives and emotional wellbeing of many people in the world, cases involving sexual assault are often not taken as seriously partly due to the influence of rape culture.

There are also the cases of rape that we don’t normally hear about, involving two men, two women, or a woman as the perpetrator. We don’t hear about cases like these mainly due to societal ideas about men, women, and the nature of rape. Cases involving men as the victim are often overlooked, partly due to the idea that men cannot be subject to rape. In some cases, cultural values put pressure on men to appear strong, thus, the victims often refuse to speak up about their assault and bring it to court. Furthermore, when women are involved as the perpetrators, juries have a hard time believing the victim, due to preconceived ideas of women being weak. Clearly, societal values are important factors in rape cases.

To combat this injustice and ignorance, it is vital that rape policy be revised to help victims and rape as a concept be redefined. A good way to start is by informing students in public schools about the definition of rape and the unjust outcomes of rape culture. If we educate the younger generation about rape and its consequences, we can reduce rape crimes and make sure that future policies will not allow for loopholes that leave the perpetrator free of consequence. In addition to this, we can help enforce stronger government policies that help victims and stop rape culture from influencing verdicts for sex offenders. Political and societal change are both strong factors in upending rape culture and providing justice for rape victims.