“Victim blaming” prevalent in contemporary rape culture

In Delhi, India, gang rape case defense attorney PA Singh proves to be yet another example of the all-too-familiar “blame the victim” culture that has become associated with rape cases throughout Indian and U.S. culture in his post-trial remarks.

“If I caught my daughter having premarital sex, I would burn her alive,” Singh said. “I would not have let this situation happen. All parents should adopt such an attitude.”

This thus implies that it is not only the victim’s fault, but the parents’ as well. The underlying message of Singh’s remark is unfortunately all-too prominent in American culture as well. In a 2013 Montana rape case, former teacher and defendant Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, was sentenced to 30 days in prison for the rape of a 14-year old girl.

Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh justified the shockingly short sentence by stating that the victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as her teacher was. Disturbingly, these victim-blaming statements are not unseen throughout U.S. courtrooms.

In an increasingly connected world, where remarks such as these are instantly widespread and mass communicated, I can’t help but question: Are these horrific paradigms increasing the amount of rapes that happen every year?

According to Rape and Trauma Services, 1.3 women are raped every minute, which translates to 683,000 per year in the United States alone. These numbers are accurate only as far as rapes are being reported. On average, only 16 percent of rapes are reported each year, according the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

If being blamed by the public is yet another hardship victims must deal with after already experiencing the trauma of rape, it is not hard to believe that many victims avoid reporting an assault altogether. The public response to rape victims is horrendous in that it not only discourages rape victims from reporting what has happened to them, but it also sends a message to young men and even second-time offenders that there are exceptions to what is considered a rape.

In Delhi, the brutal rape, torture and murder of the woman in the Singh case was justified because she was having premarital sex. Therefore she was asking for it, or at least put herself in that position by being out late at night. In the 2013 Montana rape case, the judge justified a 54-year old man having sex with a 14-year old girl by stating that this young woman was older than her “chronological age”-a phrase whose definition cannot be found in any court of law.

These statements are beyond dangerous in that they create these imaginary contingencies to whether rape is considered rape. In a 2012 bill proposal meant to illegalize abortion even in cases of rape, Todd Akin claimed that women who experience a “legitimate rape” couldn’t get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin later claimed that by legitimate, he meant “forcible,” according to an article written by the Huffington Post. Either way, in this small statement Akin not only tries to redefine rape-as if there are different kinds of rape-but also imagines some sort of function that all women have on their bodies to shut down their reproductive organs, because those organs know the difference between consensual and non-consensual sex.

The message this sends: Women, if you get pregnant from being raped, you were obviously on board for it all. Outrage in the United States about the remarks made by Singh comes off as hypocritical in an environment where judges, senators and the general public have been sending parallel messages in America for years. Thomas Foster, a DePaul professor on the history of sexuality in America, offers a similar perspective. “Regarding the coverage of sexual assault in India, I would add that we also have a long history of looking at other cultures as a way of shoring up our own sense of superiority,” Foster said. “The reporting on sexual assault in India should not feed into a long standing Western perception of ‘barbaric others.’ A quick glance at our own appalling statistics on the high incidence of rape and sexual assault in this country show that to be delusional.” Delusional is correct. Before imposing these standards upon other countries, we need to take a legitimate look in at our own culture and figure out new ways in which we can ease the unimaginable pain that victims of rape endure, rather than adding to the personal guilt that many victims report already having to deal with.

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