Rape: A Year in Review

 hatoum

It’s been said that every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. In past years maybe this bit of statistical information would have been unbelievable but lately it’s become more obviously so. Maybe it’s because every five minutes there’s a new post, article, tweet, or controversy regarding rape. Honestly, between “comedian” Daniel Tosh’s less than hilarious rape jokes to the Steubenville teens who raped and urinated on an unconscious sixteen-year old girl, 2012 has definitely been the rapiest year yet. And it’s not because there have been substantially more rapes this year than the last. Quite the contrary, it’s because rape is finally emerging as a real issue. No more hiding it behind closed doors or stuffing it under our beds with the rest of our dirty laundry. We are talking about rape while challenging those who perpetuate it and I believe that’s something to celebrate.

Earlier this spring Daniel Tosh made some rape jokes. Of all of the things to chuckle at he chose something that directly affects 1 in 5 American women not to mention the countless men and children who have been sexually assaulted. Did he really think that would go over well? I never got a chance to properly address the witless comments left on my Facebook status which read, “Hey Tosh, rape jokes aren’t funny!” So, to respond to those who believe standup comedy is an art and rape jokes are just artistic expression, I say this: No, some things aren’t funny. It wasn’t funny when I lost my sense of self. It wasn’t funny when I’d cry myself to sleep thinking that somehow I was responsible for my own rape. By laughing at atrocities like rape we clearly continuing it. When we laugh at something we get comfortable with it. We allow it to come into our homes and sit down with us on the couch. Laughing only separates it from its own ugliness because after all if something makes us laugh than it can’t be that bad. Ending rape culture is more important than five minutes of half-assed standup.

Right wing politicians sure had a lot to say about rape this year. They even went so far as to take personal experiences and divide them into different “types” of rape. There was forcible rape, rape-rape, Legitimate rape, and of course emergency rape! Like, um excuse me but when isn’t rape a fucking emergency? Listen, anyone with half of a brain will tell you that categorizing rape is completely asinine but just in case you’re not sure, rape is when a person has sex with you without your consent. This can happen out of force, unconsciousness, inebriation, intimidation, or manipulation. I hope this simple definition cleared it up for everybody but if you forget just try and remember that rape is rape is rape is rape.

In December a 23 year old Indian woman was out with her boyfriend after 10pm and was raped. Some will try and argue that this is the very reason why she was raped. “What was she doing?” “Why was she out so late?” and the victim blaming will go on and on like this. Victim blaming is prevalent all over the world and India is no exception. However, this case was so undeniably horrific that it got people talking. Jyoti Singh Pandey was attacked by five men who gang raped her with pipes, leaving her completely disemboweled. She survived the encounter but died some days later in the hospital. India, a country where sex is so stigmatized that victims of rape are often shamed into marrying their rapists, is pissed. They are finally getting angry at rape and demanding that the perpetrators of this crime be brought to justice. From this ghastly incident rose a voice that is insisting rape be taken seriously. What happened to Jyoti was nothing short of tragic but if a conservative country like India can stand up against rape than why can’t we?

Oh, Steubenville just a little town with a big problem. Steubenville, like most of the United States, glorifies its high school athletes to the point that they are sure they can’t be rapists. Just like they’re sure these rising football stars didn’t rape an unconscious girl and then urinate on her at a party. You’re right coach. That little tart was just trying to bring down your team for her own selfish reasons! Err wrong. That’s most definitely not how that works. Sadly, this story is constantly repeating itself. For some reason Americans can’t come to terms with the fact that standing up for a rape victim is considerably more important than standing by the athlete who raped her, go figure. This time things turned out differently for the small town story. It made the national news and it’s still being talked about. Of course that little video of Steubenville teens referring to themselves as “the rape crew” Anonymous leaked last month sure didn’t help keep it out of the headlines.

So, there it is. We’re finally talking about it. The conversation has started without any intention of stopping. Rape is a truly insidious action and the fact that we can’t turn on our computers or pick up a newspaper without seeing it on a headline doesn’t mean the world is getting worse. It means that instead of pretending it doesn’t happen we’re finally addressing it and holding perpetrators accountable.  This year we’ve seen politicians, entertainers, athletes, and entire countries face this controversial topic. Finally, it’s the majority who’s standing up against rape. As advocates we are no longer the minority. In 2013 my only hope is that we can continue the conversation so that rape and rape culture can meet an ultimate end.

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