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Rape culture is a culture of fear

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November 8, 2015

11:29 AM

Author’s disclaimer: this piece discusses rape and may be triggering for some.

Last week’s piece, “It’s A Hookup Culture, Not a Rape Culture,” made the factually unfounded claim that rape culture exists only in Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan.

“But everywhere I’ve looked [in America], I cannot seem to find it,” the author wrote.

According to RAINN, almost 300,000 people are raped or sexually assaulted in the United States each year.

Everywhere I look (in America), I find examples of rape culture. When I say rape culture, I use the Marshall University Women’s Center definition: “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized.”

As a result, women end up living in a culture of fear that men are often unaware of. Even though I am not a survivor of sexual assault, I, as a woman, fear because of rape culture.

According to Marshall University Women’s Center: “Rape Culture affects every woman. The rape of one woman is a degradation, terror, and limitation to all women. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That’s how rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population is held in a subordinate position to the whole male population, even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape. This cycle of fear is the legacy of Rape Culture.”

Fear is an integral but largely invisible part of rape culture. While men can also be survivors of rape, sexual violence disproportionately affects women. As a result, women end up living in a culture of fear that men are often unaware of. Even though I am not a survivor of sexual assault, I, as a woman, fear because of rape culture.

I fear for the women I know and love. Before she went to her first college party, I had to talk to my 17-year-old sister about the red zone. The sexual assault of freshman and college women during the first six weeks is so common that we needed a term for it. If that’s not normalization of rape, I don’t know what is.

As a woman, I walk past men who aren’t forced to confront my presence. I am always forced to confront theirs.

I fear for my own safety. In the last three months, every time I have walked down Jamestown or Richmond Road by myself or with a group of female friends at night, I’ve been yelled at out of a car at least once, often several times.

As a woman, I walk past men who aren’t forced to confront my presence. I am always forced to confront theirs.

I’ve discussed the issue of catcalling and street harassment with male friends, almost all of whom seem baffled by its prevalence. My male friends don’t see me street harassed because it doesn’t happen when they are around. Their presence prevents other men from harassing me; the same isn’t true for the presence of my female friends.

My behavior has changed as a result of this harassment, in ways that often go unseen. … My mobility is limited by fear.

My behavior has changed as a result of this harassment, in ways that often go unseen. I won’t go places I have to walk to by myself and I won’t leave until I find someone to walk me home. My mobility is limited by fear.

I fear being raped.

I fear being a survivor or not surviving.

I don’t only fear the physical act of rape or the emotional trauma it would inflict on me. I fear the effect it would have on my family.

Last year, I lost one of the people I most care about. I remember seeing her name in the headlines, reading articles about her abduction, rape and murder. I’ve never felt more acute pain than when I saw her mother’s grief broadcast on national television.

I fear my mother grieving like her mother did.

Email Rachel Merriman-Goldring at remerrimangold@email.wm.edu

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  • Rachel Merriman-Goldring