Rape Myth Culture encompasses cultural practices that excuse or otherwise tolerate sexual violence. It’s about how society, collectively, thinks about sexual assault. In mainstream media, this is often played out in situations where sexual assault is ignored, trivialized, normalized or joked about.
These are pervasive and institutionalized cultural practices that are internalized by people, sometimes in the form of victim blaming. Victim blaming is when the victim of a sexual attack is blamed partially or fully for the harm that befell them. Commonly, how she dressed, if she drank or used drugs, the extent of her sexual past, how she acted that night etc. Thus, putting the onus on her, rather than her rapist.
I think this comes from early childhood teachings where the focus is on the girls, and how to avoid being raped. “Don’t go out alone”, “Don’t wear revealing clothing”, “Don’t invite attention” rather than telling the boys “Don’t rape.” (I also want to acknowledge that anyone can be sexually assaulted. I am merely pointing out that it was very gendered back in my days of sex ed.)
A poignant example of my own experience with rape myth culture was during the Jian Ghomeshi case. I knew the material, but hadn’t yet seen the prejudice played out quite like that before. I remember reading an article about one of the first women who charged him – and after they explained her story, the author ended that paragraph with “… and this woman is highly educated and currently employed full time”.
….. Why was that necessary to add? Does the fact that she went to school and has a job make her more credible? That we can believe this because she’s an active member in society? By that logic – does that mean a woman who finished high school and is currently on disability, is she less believeable? Or less worthy of care?
This started a moral firestorm within me, a Sexual Violence Counsellor who speaks to women every day about their experiences with sexual violence. Women of all ages, races, cultures, marital status and socioeconomic levels.
What do you think!