The many faces of Rape Culture

Trigger Warning: rape and sexual assault

In the wake of the numerous allegations against Bill Cosby, as well as the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi (who has now been charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcome resistance) people are talking about rape, sexual assault, and Rape Culture.  I know there are many people who deny that Rape Culture exists.  These people tend to think of the term in a literal sense, i.e. “a culture that endorses and promotes rape”.  That is NOT what Rape Culture is.  Rape Culture is defined as:

[…] an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.

Below are several links that show the many faces of Rape Culture in the United States.

Eminem targets Iggy Azalea with rape threats

In a disturbing one-minute preview of Vegas, a song believed to be on his upcoming album, Eminem graphically depicts violence aimed at Iggy Azalea.

“So what’s it gon’ be? Put that s— away Iggy/You don’t wanna blow that rape whistle on me/Scream!/I love it/’Fore I get lost with the gettin’ off.” he raps in the preview, leaked on Wednesday.

Azalea, herself still fresh from her online feud with Snoop Dogg, has already hit back hard on Twitter.

“im bored of the old men threatening young women as entertainment trend and much more interested in the young women getting $ trend. zzzz, [sic]” the 24-year-old tweeted on Friday morning.

When a popular musician recites lyrics that depict graphic sexualized violence, you know that sexualized violence against women has been normalized in society. This shouldn’t be normal. It shouldn’t be acceptable.  Yet Eminem is insanely popular and people will make excuses for what he says, no matter what vile shit tumbles from his tongue.

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Staten Island gastropub slammed for selling ‘Roofie Colada’ drink

A New York gastropub has been forced to pull a controversially named “Roofie Colada” dessert drink from its menu after facing online backlash.

The Phunky Elephant, in Staten Island, started catching serious heat last week after complainants claimed that the beverage made fun of date rape, reports

Owner Patricia Gaja said the syrupy concoction was added to the eatery’s list in June and derived from a joke made on the “Family Guy” cartoon.

But critics described it as “harmful” because it “normalized roofies as a date rape drug.”

They also claimed it made it acceptable to joke about a type of behavior that often leads to rape or sexual assault, reports

“Even with all that whipped cream you can’t make a rape joke palatable. Roofie Colada = Not Funny,” wrote Lauren Marie Cappello on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

The owner of this restaurant thought it was a cute idea to call the dessert “Roofie Colada”. It’s like she didn’t give any thought to what a roofie is and how it is almost always discussed in society.  Roofies are sedatives that rapists often add to drinks to render their victims incapacitated or unconscious. They are not a laughing matter. They are not a subject to be treated lightly. Certainly, Roofie anything should not be the name of a dessert. Doing so is yet another example of a society in which rape is normalized and trivialized.

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A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA

Extra Trigger Warning: graphic discussion of sexual assault

This Rolling Stone article about sexual assault at the University of Virginia is long and detailed.  It is also quite worth the read.  You’ll read about multiple sexual assaults on the campus of UVA and how the victims chose to handle their assaults. You’ll also shake your head in anger and dismay when you read about how UVA officials handled these cases. There is so much quotable material here that I had trouble deciding what to excerpt. I chose the following because it shows how deeply entrenched Rape Culture is in our society.

[S]ipping from a plastic cup, Jackie grimaced, then discreetly spilled her spiked punch onto the sludgy fraternity-house floor. The University of Virginia freshman wasn’t a drinker, but she didn’t want to seem like a goody-goody at her very first frat party – and she especially wanted to impress her date, the handsome Phi Kappa Psi brother who’d brought her here. Jackie was sober but giddy with discovery as she looked around the room crammed with rowdy strangers guzzling beer and dancing to loud music. She smiled at her date, whom we’ll call Drew, a good-looking junior – or in UVA parlance, a third-year – and he smiled enticingly back.

“Want to go upstairs, where it’s quieter?” Drew shouted into her ear, and Jackie’s heart quickened. She took his hand as he threaded them out of the crowded room and up a staircase.

Four weeks into UVA’s 2012 school year, 18-year-old Jackie was crushing it at college. A chatty, straight-A achiever from a rural Virginia town, she’d initially been intimidated by UVA’s aura of preppy success, where throngs of toned, tanned and overwhelmingly blond students fanned across a landscape of neoclassical brick buildings, hurrying to classes, clubs, sports, internships, part-time jobs, volunteer work and parties; Jackie’s orientation leader had warned her that UVA students’ schedules were so packed that “no one has time to date – people just hook up.” But despite her reservations, Jackie had flung herself into campus life, attending events, joining clubs, making friends and, now, being asked on an actual date. She and Drew had met while working lifeguard shifts together at the university pool, and Jackie had been floored by Drew’s invitation to dinner, followed by a “date function” at his fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi. The “upper tier” frat had a reputation of tremendous wealth, and its imposingly large house overlooked a vast manicured field, giving “Phi Psi” the undisputed best real estate along UVA’s fraternity row known as Rugby Road.

Jackie had taken three hours getting ready, straightening her long, dark, wavy hair. She’d congratulated herself on her choice of a tasteful red dress with a high neckline. Now, climbing the frat-house stairs with Drew, Jackie felt excited. Drew ushered Jackie into a bedroom, shutting the door behind them. The room was pitch-black inside. Jackie blindly turned toward Drew, uttering his name. At that same moment, she says, she detected movement in the room – and felt someone bump into her. Jackie began to scream.

“Shut up,” she heard a man’s voice say as a body barreled into her, tripping her backward and sending them both crashing through a low glass table. There was a heavy person on top of her, spreading open her thighs, and another person kneeling on her hair, hands pinning down her arms, sharp shards digging into her back, and excited male voices rising all around her. When yet another hand clamped over her mouth, Jackie bit it, and the hand became a fist that punched her in the face. The men surrounding her began to laugh. For a hopeful moment Jackie wondered if this wasn’t some collegiate prank. Perhaps at any second someone would flick on the lights and they’d return to the party.

“Grab its motherfucking leg,” she heard a voice say. And that’s when Jackie knew she was going to be raped.

She remembers every moment of the next three hours of agony, during which, she says, seven men took turns raping her, while two more – her date, Drew, and another man – gave instruction and encouragement. She remembers how the spectators swigged beers, and how they called each other nicknames like Armpit and Blanket. She remembers the men’s heft and their sour reek of alcohol mixed with the pungency of marijuana. Most of all, Jackie remembers the pain and the pounding that went on and on.

As the last man sank onto her, Jackie was startled to recognize him: He attended her tiny anthropology discussion group. He looked like he was going to cry or puke as he told the crowd he couldn’t get it up. “Pussy!” the other men jeered. “What, she’s not hot enough for you?” Then they egged him on: “Don’t you want to be a brother?” “We all had to do it, so you do, too.” Someone handed her classmate a beer bottle. Jackie stared at the young man, silently begging him not to go through with it. And as he shoved the bottle into her, Jackie fell into a stupor, mentally untethering from the brutal tableau, her mind leaving behind the bleeding body under assault on the floor.

When Jackie came to, she was alone. It was after 3 a.m. She painfully rose from the floor and ran shoeless from the room. She emerged to discover the Phi Psi party still surreally under way, but if anyone noticed the barefoot, disheveled girl hurrying down a side staircase, face beaten, dress spattered with blood, they said nothing. Disoriented, Jackie burst out a side door, realized she was lost, and dialed a friend, screaming, “Something bad happened. I need you to come and find me!” Minutes later, her three best friends on campus – two boys and a girl (whose names are changed) – arrived to find Jackie on a nearby street corner, shaking. “What did they do to you? What did they make you do?” Jackie recalls her friend Randall demanding. Jackie shook her head and began to cry. The group looked at one another in a panic. They all knew about Jackie’s date; the Phi Kappa Psi house loomed behind them. “We have to get her to the hospital,” Randall said.

Their other two friends, however, weren’t convinced. “Is that such a good idea?” she recalls Cindy asking. “Her reputation will be shot for the next four years.” Andy seconded the opinion, adding that since he and Randall both planned to rush fraternities, they ought to think this through. The three friends launched into a heated discussion about the social price of reporting Jackie’s rape, while Jackie stood beside them, mute in her bloody dress, wishing only to go back to her dorm room and fall into a deep, forgetful sleep. Detached, Jackie listened as Cindy prevailed over the group: “She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape,’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.”

Rape Culture is so deeply entrenched in society that some of Jackie’s “friends” were more worried about her reputation or their status in a fraternity. She was just sexually assaulted and they’re not only sitting around debating what to do, but they’re worried about how her rape will affect them (and why the fuck are they even thinking about their membership in a fraternity in the first place? Is that so much more important than the anguish and pain of a friend)?! Did they ever fucking think about asking Jackie what she wanted to do (I’m not certain about automatically taking her to a hospital either.  I would lean toward doing what the victim wants in this situation)?  Probably not, because they seemed too worried about other bullshit. Reputation and fraternities be damned.

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In the wake of the above Rolling Stone article, the president of UVA has suspended all fraternities until January 9

Faced with mounting pressure from students, faculty and alumni, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan suspended all campus fraternities Saturday, an action prompted by a searing magazine account of an alleged 2012 gang rape inside a fraternity house at the school.

The suspension, which includes sororities and other Greek organizations, will continue until Jan. 9, the Friday before the spring semester is to begin, Sullivan said in a statement posted on the university’s Web site.

“In the intervening period we will assemble groups of students, faculty, alumni, and other concerned parties to discuss our next steps in preventing sexual assault and sexual violence on Grounds,” she said, using university parlance for its Charlottesville campus.

Sullivan’s lengthy statement was the most dramatic sign that the 195-year-old university, which prides itself as a bastion of tradition, gentility and honor, was reeling from charges­ that it failed to reckon with a culture of excessive drinking and sexual misconduct on campus.

The article in Rolling Stone magazine, posted online Wednesday, describes a brutal sexual assault that allegedly occurred in the Phi Kappa Psi house. The victim, who was given an alias by the magazine, said a fraternity member led her upstairs during a party and into a dark room, where several men raped her.

On Friday, the magazine published additional accounts from anonymous U-Va. students describing on-campus rapes and an inadequate response from the university officials contacted by the victims.

The university’s Board of Visitors will meet Tuesday to discuss the allegations, as well as policies and procedures on sexual assault, Sullivan said.

One prominent board member, former rector Helen Dragas, posted to the university’s Facebook page to say she had learned that a college friend “had the exact same thing happen to her in a fraternity house.”

“I never knew it,” wrote Dragas, who attended U-Va. in the early 1980s, “and I was really shaken that women were being victimized then, and still are more than thirty years later. This is a serious problem, to say the least. We need to solve it.”

After the suspension was announced, Dragas said in an e-mail that she’d heard “reactions around Grounds ranging from ‘not nearly enough’ to ‘it implies all our sons are guilty.’ ”

Sullivan’s statement came after more than 1,000 students and faculty members signed a letter sent Friday night calling on the president to freeze activities for groups under investigation for sexual assault and for a suspension of Greek-letter organizations throughout the weekend.

Hundreds attended a rally Thursday, and dozens more marched through campus Friday calling for new efforts to combat “rape culture” at the university, according to reports in the student-run Cavalier Daily. On Saturday afternoon, four protesters were arrested for trespassing at the Phi Kappa Psi house, said Lt. Stephen Upman, a Charlottesville police spokesman

“People were unsatisfied with [Sullivan’s] initial response,” said Retsy Holliday, a senior foreign affairs majors who was one of the drafters of the letter. “This was our cry for more action. And she responded.”

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A selection of supportive responses to the Rolling Stone article

I was also raped at UVA in a frat house in 2013. I reported it through the Sexual Misconduct Board at the University and had it tried in 2014. My evidence included texts calling for help, police testimony consistent with mine, and numerous witnesses. But the University still found him innocent. I found Nicole Eramo very unfeeling as well — sociopathic, almost. She later told me she didn’t believe the studies that showed rapists, in particular, were repeat offenders of this heinous crime. It was a very negative experience to go through — to be raped and then told that your offender was innocent. I even left clothing as I ran out of the frat house that the University gathered as evidence and it was never returned to me. Not that the clothing was important. It wasn’t. The police discouraged me from pursuing it criminally, saying that I didn’t have enough evidence to win. They also told me that I should be cautious about pursuing this formally, since court proceedings and news articles related to my case could spread publicly on the Internet. For privacy reasons (I didn’t want future employers to Google me and see that I brought forward rape charges), I decided to pursue justice through the University. But the outcome of this process was painful and disappointing. I will never stop wondering why UVA so often expels students for academic lying, cheating, and stealing but has never once expelled a student for rap.

Guest D 
My best friend is a survivor of sexual assault at UVA and she has told me numerous times that Dean Eramo was a constant source of support through the entire process. The article is accurate in bringing to light the fact that changes need to be made, however little progress will be made by firing people who are trying to help student.

I am so sorry for what happened to you, Jackie, and I wish I had been brave enough my freshman year to report what happened to me. But fearing the very same things – backlash, no consequences – I chose to stay quiet. I support you, I am proud of you and what you did is going to change lives. You are forcing an administration to admit its wrongdoings, and you are getting national attention, which will help to stop this misogyny, violence and pain from affecting more people. I know that feeling like a martyr is never going to feel as good as the girl you were before this happened to you, but your struggle has significance and you are needed in this world. 

There are 11 more responses. They’re worth reading, but they are rage inducing because they all demonstrate that rape is not treated seriously in our culture. The problems on the campus of UVA reach back decades.  And no, sexual assault is not just a problem on UVA, and no one ever said it was. What has been said is that it IS a problem and it needs to be dealt with rather than swept under the rug. Campus officials need to foster a climate that is supportive towards the victims of sexual assault and they need to ensure that any sexual assault counselors possess sufficient empathy for the job. They need to provide better resources for survivors and they need to stop worrying about the potential damage rape allegations can bring and focus more on the needs of rape victims. They also need mandatory campus wide education on sexual assault.

The many faces of Rape Culture