Why should I care about violence against women?

Recently I presented information about sexual violence to a group of college university professionals. Per my usual Sexual Violence 101 lecture, I gave information about the scope and prevalence of sexual assault, risk and protective factors for victims and offenders, and the physical/psychological/economic consequences of experiencing a rape. When I began to discuss rape culture, I made the statement: “Rape is the product of a social problem that stems from society’s adversarial attitudes towards women.” Given that my attentive audience members were aware of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) most recent statistics indicating that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will experience some form of attempted or completed rape within their lifetime, a participant asked why I chose to define rape as a social problem connected to female identity. “After all,” he said, “men get raped too.”

This is true. Men are absolutely victims of sexual violence. Overwhelming numbers of men who experienced abuse as young boys are now coming forward and speaking out as adults. However, the true prevalence of male sexual abuse and assault is still unknown due to the pervasive gender-conformist attitudes that keep men from coming forward and reporting sexual violence.

Rape is still taboo across all socio-demographics, and the U.S. Bureau of Justice reports that upwards of 60% of all rapes go unreported to law enforcement. What we do know, is that gender-based violence, specifically violent acts targeted at women, is increasingly prevalent, and even normalized, in American society.

There are many, many factors that contribute to the high levels of violence against women that occur globally. In our culture, there are connections between

the high rate of rape;
the glorification of violence;
the objectification of women;
the encouragement of tough and aggressive behavior in men; and
the prevalence of war.

In fact, just in the past week, the following events were covered by national media:

Flier found in college dorm lists ‘ways to get away with rape’
Male students from Ohio’s Miami University circulated a flier titled “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” in the bathroom of a coed on-campus dorm.

‘Fantasy Slut League’: San Francisco high school ‘League’ gives points for sex
High school varsity athletes from an affluent California school used an online competition, modeled after fantasy leagues common in major league sports, as a bonding activity for the last five or six years, where boys would collect points based on the number of sex acts they could get females to partake in.

Pregnant Louisiana woman stabbed; Unborn baby cut out of her
Horrifying act of violence perpetrated by a husband against his pregnant wife and her unborn fetus reported in Livingston Parish, Louisiana.

Pregnancy from rape is destined by God
According to Indiana State Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape ‘‘that’s something God intended.’’ (Sounds similar to another recent statement from a Senate candidate about “legitimate rape.”)

First and foremost, it is the philosophy of the anti-rape movement that violence against anyone is absolutely unacceptable. Violence experienced by women and girls, however, particularly intimate partner violence and sexual assault, represents a unique aspect of the wider social problem of violence, and requires specific attention and solutions. Individual experiences of violence against women must be assessed against the backdrop of historical, social, political, cultural and economic inequality of women.

One thought on “Why should I care about violence against women?

  1. The “1 in 71 men have been raped” stat from the CDC survey doesn’t tell the whole story. It defines “rape” as the attacker penetrating the victim, which excludes women who use their vagina to rape a man (rape by envelopment) which is counted as “made to penetrate”. The very same survey says “1 in 21 men (4.8%) reported that they were made to penetrate someone else,” which is far more than 1 in 71. Also, the study says that 79.2% of male victims of “made to penetrate” reported only female perpetrators, meaning they were raped by a woman.

    The above, lifetime stats do show a lower percentage of male victims (up to 1.4% rape by penetration + 4.8% made to penetrate = 6.2%) than female victims (18.3%) although it is far more than the 1 in 71 you stated. However, if you look at the report’s stats for the past 12 months, just as many number of men were “forced to penetrate” as women were raped, meaning that if you properly define “made to penetrate” as rape, men were raped as often as women.

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