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Rape culture is defined as cultural practices, such as rape jokes, in which rape and other actions of sexual violence are normalized so that they seem standard.
My first direct experience with rape culture was on a sunny 6th period in science class. A classmate came up to the table I was sitting at. He put his arm around my friend, turned to me and said, “Doesn’t your friend seem like the type of girl to say ‘that was mean’ after being raped?” My classmates would describe me as an outspoken feminist ranter, but in this moment I was speechless. I couldn’t seem to grasp my mind around what I had just witnessed. It was so unbelievable to me that someone would say such a thing, especially with their arm around my friend. I was so livid I could not even speak. After I regained my composure I asked him how he thought that was in any way funny as he tried to explain to me that it was just a joke. On the walk home from school I was fuming. The fact that in my small learning community at Berkeley High, with only 60 people in my grade, someone could think that this “joke” was funny, was unnerving. When I had reached my home I sent an email to two of my teachers about the necessity of education on rape culture and rape jokes. I pointed out the fact that we only had 60 students in our freshman class and how in order to have a safe community we needed to address these issues. The next day my teachers and I talked about what had happened and brainstormed ways to educate about rape culture. A few weeks later my teacher came up to me and apologized. She said that all the teachers had talked about my concerns but had still not come up with anything. Her and the other teacher I told tried to get the male teachers to talk to students, but they did not want to. It was discouraging to me that even in such a small community progress was so difficult. One of the teachers I told directed me towards Berkeley High School Stop Harassing. BHS Stop Harassing is a group of Berkeley High students and adult advisors working to change the culture at BHS and beyond around sexual harassment and violence. (straight from their mission statement). You can find out more about them at their website: http://www.stopharassing.org
After this happened I started to notice rape culture all around me, especially at school. My friends would tell me stories about things that happened to them. One of my friends was kneeling on the ground in class talking to friend when a guy came up, grabbed her head and pushed her face into his crotch. Even teachers would make certain remarks that contributed to Berkeley High’s environment of rape culture and sexual assault. For instance while teaching about WW1 my teacher said that “Bosnia and Herzegovina had to just bend over and take it.”
To combat rape culture it is important to name the problems and speak up about them. Use your voice on social media or in school to let others know what is happening. Become educated on the differences in other countries and states. Read up on articles and unite your community to talk about this issue.
I am now more conscious of rape culture in everyday occurrences and want to educate others even more in the future.
To become more educated on rape culture, read the articles below: