Column: The simple truth: rape culture must end

From politicians to police, we have to toughen our stances against sexual assault.

The month of April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month. There are many issues brought to light at this time that generally get brushed under the rug because sexual assault is an unpleasant topic to discuss. Under this spotlight, everyone must take the opportunity to reform rape culture, not only schools and individuals, but also Congress.

The statistics on rape cases in this country are appalling, and one of the quickest ways to help them is to eliminate backlogged DNA and rape kit testing. The average rape kit costs about $1,200; due to the expense, many police stations find reasons to backlog the kit. One of the most-used reasons for this is simple victim-blaming.

We live in a country that condones sexual assault. Legislation concerning rape has always been years behind our needs and the available technology. It was not until the 1970s that spousal rape, the act of a husband raping his own wife, became illegal. A decade later, the federal definition of rape broadened to include any object, not just a penis, being forced into a woman; only last year was it expanded to include unwanted penetration of any person as rape.

This rape culture is still incredibly prevalent in our modern society. We have politicians claiming “legitimate rape” and saying rape is “another form of conception.” With our lawmakers defining and describing rape as anything other than a violent act that will in no way be tolerated by our country, it is impossible to expect any police officer or any other citizen to see rape as a serious crime.

The recent Steubenville rape case really held a mirror to the face of society. A young girl passed out at a party and two boys forced themselves on her. This should be a cut-and-dry case. She did not consent to sexual intercourse and therefore was raped by the boys. However, the court seemed more concerned with how the girl was dressed and why she was drunk. The fact that a “well, she didn’t say no” defense was allowed in court is an insult to our society.

The media sympathized with these two “promising, talented and athletic” rapists. They are not the victims — that is why they were on the other side of the courtroom. Apparently, this was a hard concept for news outlets to grasp. The country saw two rapists as confused young boys, as opposed to two monsters who took something from a girl that she will never be able to get back.

A few years ago, I remember reading about a rape case in California. There was a girl at a high school dance who walked outside and four boys raped her. There were bystanders watching this girl struggle and scream. No one pulled the boys off of her and no one got an adult. They just watched. A video of the attack circulated on camera phones because a few of the nice students had the bravery to just record the girl being violated. The charges against all of the boys were dropped because there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

When I first read this, I wept. I cried for the girl and I cried for society. I wanted to know why people were not rioting in the streets, why cars were not being flipped over and why buildings were not being set on fire. I wanted to do all of these things. I wanted to fight for this girl because I felt that no one else was willing. The moment we realized we fostered a society and a generation that plays with their iPhone while cruelty stands feet in front of them, we should have thrown in the towel and started over. We just ignored it. Society has become a bystander holding its iPhone to human depravity, unwilling to do anything.

These are two cases that hit the media, but the truth is this happens every single day. A person is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes in the United States and it seems like not one thing is done about it. Sure, there are posters and PSAs about rape, but it seems like pleas go unanswered by Congress. We must put stronger laws into place, and the people that make these laws must get it through their heads that rape is a crime, not a political stance.

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