This weekend we are discussing sexual assault against women.
I’m not sure exactly how this scale was constructed, but I did spend the better part of my evening on Wednesday looking at the womanstats codebook, and just in general, pulling their website apart. I am satisified that they are actually measuring rape here, and this map raises a lot of questions.
The scale runs from “Rare” to “Endemic.” There is not one country in the world in which rape is rare. It is unusual in Canada, France, Norway, Australia, and what appears to be part of Austria. It is not uncommon in the U.S., the U.K., most of Europe, and Argentina. In the rest of the world, it’s either prevalent or endemic. I could take this map and make you a list of questions, but I need to move on to specifics. Since I am a citizen of the U.S., here is some information about rape in the U.S. Feel free to share info about your own country on the thread.
Here’s a fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control. I’ll give you the highlights.
In a nationally representative survey of adults:
- Nearly 1 in 5 (18.3%) women and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives.
- In a nationally representative survey of adults, 37.4% of female rape victims were first raped between ages 18-24.
- 42.2% of female rape victims were first raped before age 18. 29.9% of female rape victims were first raped between the ages of 11-17.
- 12.3% female rape victims and 27.8% of male rape victims were first raped when they were age 10 or younger.
Numbers do not, in fact, speak for themselves. Numbers say nothing until someone interprets them. Interpret the CDC numbers as you will, but when you do, keep in mind that according to this scale only a handful of countries in the whole world are doing better. I need to move on to one more piece of this puzzle: Rape culture.
I understand rape culture to mean cultural practices which normalize sexual assault. And this aspect of the problem goes well beyond physical rape. It includes things like Subreddits devoted to sharing pics of their friends’ clevage without knowledge or consent. It includes guys in Croatia snagging pictures of women without their knowledge and having sexist social media converstations about them (our friend Ivy shared this one on last week’s thread). Rape culture includes the friend zone and upskirting.
So we’ve got a set of behaviors that dehumanize women, and dehumanization is a thoroughly-documented psychological component of violence. Another way to say it is that rape culture treats women as things instead of people. Rape culture makes it socially acceptable for men to assert ownership over women. And of course, once you own something, you are allowed to dispose of it as you see fit.
So my questions for you are, what can we do about this? How do we make it better? Certainly, I see improvements to be had from better laws and better education. What else can we do?
And what’s it like in your country? We don’t get much info about other countries in the U.S. unless we really dig for it.
(Thank you to everyone who’s kept this discussion going for three weeks. If I leave anyone out, it’s only by accident. Gretchen, Alva, Natacha, Jolene, Holly, Rose, Hannah, Ali, Crystalchandalyre, Northerngal)