According to RAINN.com sexual assault occurs about every two minutes in this country. That is more often than a commercial break while watching television. Of course the Steubenville Rape Trial and the subsequent coverage by the media, has brought the discussion of victim blaming to the forefront. Most notably is the treatment of the accused by CNN, who repeatedly seem to show sympathy not for the victim but with the accused. There a lot of things I would like to say to throw in my two cents on the issue, but for now I would like to focus on this. Every two minutes in this country someone assaults a woman. When we hear the word “rapist” what do we imagine? Do we see the archetypal skeezy pervert hiding behind the shrubbery waiting for the wayward jogger in the middle of the night? Maybe so.
And maybe that is the problem.
When we see cases like the Steubenville case, we see these previously upstanding handsome young men. Well dressed, good haircuts, I mean they were on the football team for God’s sake! Well known, well respected, so on and so forth. Rapists are perverts. Rapists are sick. Rapists are monsters. No way these guys are guilty of rape.
But they are.
And people still don’t get it
Lets say for a second that the sexual assault happening every two minutes in this country is being done by the skeevy perverts. That means one of two things. One, that there is an epidemic amount of skeevy perverts in this country, which is a problem. (Albeit a relatively solvable one as us lady folk can easily identify them by their long trench coats and close proximity to shrubbery.) Or two, that sexual assault is something that everyone is capable of, men and women, and we have no way of knowing who, how or when this might occur. That is also a problem. When Zerlina Maxwell recently brought up the idea that we as a culture should change the conversation and teach people not to rape, she was met with derision, death threats, and yes, rape threats. This leads me to believe that our current understanding of rape and sexual assault (and death threats for that matter) is that it is a socially acceptable way to interact with others.
I don’t know and I can’t guess what led those boys in Steubenville to do what they did. Except that (and this is pure speculation on my part) they thought they could. They thought it was okay. And they thought they could get away with it.
One thing is certain however. The conversation needs to change.