By Sandy . . . The concept of “rape culture” has found a rallying point in the focus on sexual violence at American colleges. For the uninitiated, rape culture, according to those who toss the term around like salad ingredients, is a culture that allows, even encourages, attitudes and behaviors that facilitate the sexual degradation of women at the hands of men. There is no recognition that men are also victims of rape. The idea of rape culture boils down, in simplistic terms, to “females good; males bad.”
Nowhere is this more apparent than with a story that dominated the news this past month. Generating an incalculable amount of written material and creating sharp division and polarization, it revolved around the story of a horrific gang rape at the University of Virginia reported in Rolling Stone. When the fall-out was almost through falling–it may never end–the facts support the strong, strong likelihood that the event did not occur, most likely not at all, and definitely not in the fashion described by the accuser and reported in R. S. by an investigative reporter who apparently did not investigate nor do any fact-checking before she reported. At the extreme ends of the issue are, on one, the ultra-feminist movement whose contention is that all alleged rape victims must absolutely be believed no matter what, even if they sometimes must fabricate to get everyone’s attention, that they must be believed to the extent that the accusation is equivalent to a finding of guilt in a court of law, and that no proof or evidence is needed other than their accusations. To do anything else, they say, is proof that a rape culture exists.
On the other end is the push-back to this that says women lie about rape all of the time and that their primary motivation in making rape accusations is payback for centuries of alleged injustices and the total annihilation of the male gender.
The truth, as it usually does, rests somewhere in between. The best thing that seems to have come from the brouhaha is some factual information being brought forth. Sexual crime on college campuses has been big in the news long before this story broke, primarily due to the White House’s involvement based, largely, on the widely accepted “statistic” that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in her life and that college women are at higher risk for sexual assault than those not in college. This is the stuff on which the theory of “rape culture” thrives.
While many have questioned the “1-in-5,” we can be grateful to the scientific community for following up with the study, based on this information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, that lends the weight of research and actual facts to the mix. Turns out that women not in college are at slightly higher risk for this type of assault than their same-age sisters in college, and the actual occurrence, far from being 1 in 5, is, on average, 1 in 150.
Just as one child abused is one too many, so is one woman assaulted, but the issue cannot be dealt with in an effective manner when it is based on myth, fiction, half-truth, and lies. It cannot be dealt with by using language and creating concepts that divide and polarize. One of RSOL’s primary mantras is “legislation based on truth and facts.” If ever truth and facts are essential, it is when dealing with a matter as serious as the sexual assault of anyone–male or female, child or adult.