by Adam Kaiser
Unfortunately, the occurrence of sexual violence is far too common in society today. The negative effects of sexual violence on our society, especially on women, cannot be overstated. Most would agree that, sadly, we live in a “culture of violence.” Many factors contribute to a “culture of violence.” One of these factors is the cultural attitudes surrounding rape myths.
Rape myths are beliefs about sexual assault.
Examples of rape myths include: Women “ask” to be raped based on the way they dress, women who flirt with men invite sexual assault, women who drink too much deserve to be assaulted, and women fantasize about rape.
Rape myths insinuate that rape is triggered, provoked by the victim, deserved, or asked for. Rape myths downplay the role that sexist attitudes have in creating a culture of violence.
Rape myths are dangerous, not only because they normalize and downplay rape, but because they often promote it. In a study conducted by Gerd Bohner, Afroditi Pina, Viki Tendayi and Frank Siebler, researchers found an alarming correlation between rape myth acceptance and rape proclivity. In one part of the study, college aged men at a British University are exposed to rape myths that are said to be accepted by their peers and then are asked to take a survey to assess their attitudes toward committing acts of sexual violence. It is no surprise that these men showed a higher propensity towards acts of sexual violence.
In the second half of the study men are exposed to statements showing that their peers reject rape myths. These men, unlike their counterparts in the first experiment, showed a much lower propensity towards sexually violent activity.
This study, although alarming, is a call to action. Personally rejecting rape myths alone is not enough to end the cycle of violence. Instead, it is important to let your peers know that you reject rape myths. Let them know that under no circumstances does a victim ask to be sexually assaulted. Let them know that no matter how a person is dressed, how much they flirt, or what their sexual history includes, they never deserve to be raped.
Although this may seem simple, it is a step that every person can take to end sexual violence. This study demonstrates that showing others that you reject rape myths and support survivors can make a difference and influence others opinions and thoughts about rape.
Sexual violence cannot be stopped until a cultural shift happens. Everyone should challenge themselves to take a stand against sexual violence and make it something that is unacceptable on every level and in every community.