'Rape Culture or Cultural Rape'
Edward Prassern8846332Tutor: Abbey Diaz


The Cultural Artefact
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The artefact chosen displays a startling set of statistics regarding the low percentage of rapes that were reported to police, an average 40%, over a five year period (2008-2012) in the United States. It also highlights the relative ease by which rapists evaded the law and the bulk of victims did not receive justice in the majority of rape cases. This is evident as only a minute 3% of rapists ever served a single day in prison during the data collection period. The statistics were collected from a number of American federal government agencies and departments, then collated by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), which is regarded as the United States largest anti-sexual violence organisation.

Public Health Issue
The public health issue exposed by the artefact is the serious underreporting of rapes by victims, as well as the prejudice they are often shown in the legal system. Many victims do not report being raped as they fear their story will not be taken seriously or their accusation will be suspected of being false. All too often the blame falls upon the victims, as it is perceived that they ‘asked’ or ‘deserved’ to be raped. Consequently most perpetrators, even if accused, are not even arrested for rape, let alone prosecuted or convicted. It is clear from this issue alone that a rape culture is present in our current society and more needs to be done to create an environment where women feel safe and comfortable about coming forward to report rape, rather than the current system which routinely does the exact opposite.

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Literature ReviewThere have been numerous studies conducted into the underreporting of rape and the various reasons why this occurs. The majority of information regarding this topic, suggests that the presence of a rape culture and the social acceptance of a number of rape myths are the key explanations for the underreporting of rape crimes (Chapleau & Oswald, 2010; Chapleau & Oswald, 2013; Deming, Covan, Swan, & Billings, 2013; Franiuk, Seefelt, & Vandello, 2008; Frese, Moya, & Megias, 2004; McMahon, 2007; Ryan, 2011). It has been argued for decades that we live in a rape culture, where the fundamental attitudes and beliefs of our society are generally supportive of violence against women, as well as the stereotyping of gender roles and rape (McMahon, 2007; Panichas, 2001; Talbot, Neill, & Rankin, 2010). What people perceive as the stereotypical version of rape is that it is generally committed by a stranger wielding a weapon, who attacks a victim in a gloomy alley or similar place, with subsequent timely reporting of the incident to law enforcement agencies (Talbot et al., 2010). This scenario is seldom the situation in which the majority of rape victims find themselves, with many being involved in acquaintance rape, where they are raped by someone they know (Talbot et al., 2010). Belief in stereotypical rape is the foundation upon which the acceptance of rape myths and the dominance of a rape tolerant society is allowed to build (Talbot et al., 2010). Commonly accepted rape myths include the belief that men cannot control their sexual desires or stop once sexually aroused and that the victim either by the way they dress or act, in particular suggestive behaviour, indicates that they ‘wanted’ or ‘asked’ for it (McMahon, 2007). These false but broadly held rape myths, serve to justify and deny sexual assault and rape (McMahon, 2007).
Other studies try to distinguish whether ‘no’ actually means no or whether in some contexts it can actually mean maybe or yes. Kahan (2010, p. 729) follows the case of two university students who were involved in an accused rape. The pair had what appeared to be consensual sex together, but then the female participant accused the male of rape (Kahan, 2010). The case went to trial where the male defendant admitted the female participant had in fact said ‘no’, but in a passionate and moaning voice, which he took as sexual encouragement and consent (Kahan, 2010). Initially, the male perpetrator was convicted of rape and sentenced, however on appeal he was acquitted as the jury believed the passionate and sexual way in which the ‘no’ was delivered could not be taken seriously and they understood the male participant could have misinterpreted it as encouragement (Kahan, 2010). Legal action of this type further serves to undermine the seriousness of rape and sexual assault; ‘no’ should always mean no, not maybe or yes.


The presence of a rape culture in the legal system often leads to a situation where the victim is violated twice, firstly by the assailant and secondly by the legal system (Panichas, 2001). This violation by the legal system usually originates with insensitive, offensive and demeaning police interviews, to ascertain whether the rape is ‘real’ and then furthered by unsympathetic and abusive defence attorneys who use strategies that humiliate and undermine the victim and their story (Panichas, 2001; Tadros, 2006). Many also have to endure intense scrutiny of their past sexual history, which can be openly aired in court as a tactic to further embarrass the victim through character assassination (Tadros, 2006). The final and most gut-wrenching insult that countless rape victims have to live with is the unjust acquittal of offenders and the ultimate disrespect of having guilty verdicts overturned by higher appellate courts (Panichas, 2001). This is as a result of the onus of proof largely falling on the victim, to prove that consent was not given rather than on the perpetrator to prove that consent was gained from the victim prior to sexual activity. This ultimately leads to a situation where victims feel they either cannot or will not report their rape, for fear of being label a false accuser and to avoid suffering the humiliation that often accompanies a rape accusation.
The ultimate question presented is whether the culture we are living in is acceptable or whether it needs to change. From the studies that have been conducted and the information gathered, it would appear, we as a society most definitely need to take a stand to eliminate the current rape culture and replace it with a culture and society where victims are encouraged and supported rather than questioned and humiliated.
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Cultural and Social AnalysisRape culture has been assimilated into and is as widespread in our current society as the common cold (Pearson, 2000a). It has become part of the natural flora of our culture and provides an atmosphere where acts of rape are nurtured (Pearson, 2000a). There is currently a stigma surrounding the acknowledgment of a rape culture, but our culture is symptomatic of a socially repressive system in which men are domineering and women are submissive (Pearson, 2000a; Pearson, 2000b). The power of television and other broadcasting outlets to influence our everyday lifestyle, including our sexual lives, is not to be underestimated (Pearson, 2000b). While the mass media, in particular television, is trying to normalise rape there is cause to believe that a rape culture exists and rape myths are rampant in the mass media, given the commonality of these problems in the general population (Franiuk et al., 2008; Pearson, 2000b). Nearly every advertisement, from commercials for clothing, to the food we eat, is sexualised and sexist in some way (Pearson, 2000b). The majority of women’s publications depict women, in one way or the other, at the mercy of men or the male stare (Pearson, 2000a). These advertisements and sex/rape scenes on television or in films display violent behaviour as acceptable, at times even sexy (Pearson, 2000b). It seduces the audience into believing rape culture is ordinary and that rape is not violent, but simply sexual interaction gone wrong (Pearson, 2000b). Furthermore, research has identified that rape myths are widespread in prime time television and newspaper reports (65%), with the most common myths being, ‘she’s lying’, ‘she asked for it’ or ‘she wanted it’, thereby blaming the victim for the rape rather than the perpetrator (Franiuk et al., 2008). The aim or airing such myths is to slander the suspected victim shifting the focus of the investigation from the accused to the accuser (Franiuk et al., 2008).


In the current cultural environment, rape is being communicated and learned without the word itself ever being spoken and is in fact quite perversely and firmly fixed within our current social structure (Pearson, 2000a). It is all well and good to tell the individual to change, however with the current social system in place, it is quite futile, as the general public is constantly having rape culture ramped down their throats from all angles. Patriarchy is still evident in our current society; it is just far more subtle than in previous times. Women are taught and learn to be submissive, whilst men are taught and learn to be domineering (Pearson, 2000b). Rape is endemic in our culture as it permeates every aspect of our social system, whether simple or complex (Pearson, 2000b). Hence to eradicate rape culture from modern society, many areas of culture which are completely accepted must change (Pearson, 2000b). Once society in general has been educated about and become aware of rape culture, the elimination of the social germ of rape can be accomplished (Pearson, 2000b).
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Artefact Analysis and ReflectionThe chosen artefact is a great ‘case in point’ with regard to the issue of rape underreporting, as it does not tread lightly. Instead it goes straight to the point, by providing the audience with a short, sharp and concise set of details that cover every aspect of the issue discussed. It is a brilliant illustration, with the first statistic showing that only forty out of every hundred rapes are reported to police. This highlights the main issue of the underreporting of rapes to law enforcement agencies. The next few pieces of data display the extremely low arrest, prosecution, conviction and jailing figures, which indicate a rape culture and bias towards women exists in the legal system and the general public. Finally, if the previous statistics were not enough, the last line reinforces the message that something is wrong with our society, as the vast majority of rapists are walking free. From this piece of assessment I have learnt that the existence of a rape culture is far more widespread and endemic than I had previously thought. It has shown me that more needs to be done within our society to help hinder the expansion of and ultimately eliminate a rape culture from our society. This cultural and societal change needs occur now, not tomorrow or the day after - now, before this issue spirals anymore out of control then it would seem it already has.

ReferencesChapleau, K. M., & Oswald, D. L. (2010). Power, sex, and rape myth acceptance: Testing two models of rape proclivity. Journal of Sex Research, 47(1), 66-78. doi:10.1080/00224490902954323

Chapleau, K. M., & Oswald, D. L. (2013). Status, threat, and stereotypes: Understanding the function of rape myth acceptance. Social Justice Research, 26(1), 18-41. doi:10.1007/s11211-013-0177-z
Deming, M. E., Covan, E. K., Swan, S. C., & Billings, D. L. (2013). Exploring rape myths, gendered norms, group processing, and the social context of rape among college women: A qualitative analysis. Violence Against Women, 19(4), 465-485. doi:10.1177/1077801213487044


Franiuk, R., Seefelt, J. L., & Vandello, J. A. (2008). Prevalence of rape myths in headlines and their effects on attitudes toward rape. Sex Roles, 58(11), 790-801. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9372-4

Frese, R., Moya, M., & Megias, J. L. (2004). Social perception of rape: How rape myth acceptance modulates the influence of situational factors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19(2), 143-161. doi: 10.1177/0886260503260245

Kahan, D. M. (2010). Culture, cognition, and consent: Who perceives what, and why, in acquaintance-rape cases. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 158(3), 729. Retrieved from http://qut.summon.serialssolutions.com/2.0.0/link/0/eLvHCXMwVV3NCsIwDC6i4HmgfYqOuHRtcxaHIHhS1OPWNt4E0ffHdCroKeSUQMLHl5CfsgYcfWHBEMhCT4xllgEx-ZzbhocQ_5ptP2jeVWqSbwt17DaH9dZ8ngGYq1AANCGBG4izzZSAEibhNc6yeOCbNhJbH6GMQLSuZ4zJBRu4HBoRBtlAzytcqqkU1FmrGUtgRQrYajGs1fxMp2O47PZvtfqq9WNcfKrvTy3YPuaFwRpeBiQ2CA
McMahon, S. (2007). Understanding community-specific rape myths: Exploring student athlete culture. Affilia, 22(4), 357-370. doi:10.1177/0886109907306331
Panichas, G. E. (2001). Rape, autonomy, and consent. Law & Society Review35(1), 231-269. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/docview/226924512/fulltextPDF?accountid=13380
Pearson, A. (2000a). Rape culture: it’s all around us. Off Our Backs, 30(8), 12-15. Retrieved from http://gateway.library.qut.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/docview/197127085?accountid=13380
Pearson, A. (2000b). Rape culture: media and message. Off Our Backs, 30(8), 13-14 Retrieved from http://gateway.library.qut.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/docview/197128320?accountid=13380
Ryan, K. M. (2011). The relationship between rape myths and sexual scripts: The social construction of rape. Sex Roles, 65(11), 774-782. doi:10.1007/s11199-011-0033-2

Tadros, V. (2006). Rape without consent. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 26(3), 515-543. doi:10.1093/ojls/gql016
Talbot, K. K., Neill, K. S., & Rankin, L. L. (2010). Rape‐accepting attitudes of university undergraduate students. Journal of Forensic Nursing, 6(4), 170-179. doi:10.1111/j.1939-3938.2010.01085.x
The Reflection
1.http://healthcultureandsociety2013.wikispaces.com/%27Rip+%26+Rolled%27+Practicing+Safe+Sex
2.http://healthcultureandsociety2013.wikispaces.com/Angel%27s+Among+Us.+Geography%27s+affect+on+morbidity+and+mortality.