Rape Culture is a big issue in America. Many fear engaging in basic social interactions purely because of how loosely our justice system takes rape and sexual assault. Potential victims fear the underlying motives of those around them. Even those who would never dream of committing an act may have cause to fear interacting with others due to those who would use our broken judicial system to enact punishment.
The problem is rooted deeply in how our culture treats sex as a whole and will unfortunately not change any time soon. However, we can take a look at how our judicial system handles cases of Rape and Sexual Assault, to better understand the real consequences they bring.
Let's look at some statistics to get a better understanding of why this fear is so widespread. 1 in 6 women are victim to an attempted or completed rape in America. 9 out of 10 victims are female. For men, 1 in every 33 are victim to an attempted or completed rape. This isn't even counting all of those who have been too afraid to report that it's ever happened to them.
Many victims of rape are too afraid to speak out about their experiences because of the traumatic nature of them. It's not far-fetched to think that they would rather forget it altogether than to have it hang over them their entire life. Across our culture as a whole, rape is still a very real and very rampant problem. Considering we as a country tend to believe in the justice system and that those who are bad will get what's coming to them, the sad truth is most cases that are even reported rarely result in any form of punishment.
This leads to many feeling downtrodden and hopeless in their search to keep those who harmed them from being able to harm others. Our justice system in this area is fundamentally broken. Those who commit acts of rape and sexual assault are very rarely unknown to the victim. There are many occasions where the victim has to see their attacker in every day life even after the fact. So is it any wonder that most victims of rape feel alone in their suffering?
Rape culture has been a very hot button issue as of late, with many reporting instances of mistreatment on college campuses and in the military. It's very strange to see how a country that prides itself on a sense of justice lets things like this slip through the cracks so easily. I believe the root cause of this disparage is due to our rather contradictory views on sex as a culture. I will be posting a follow up article later to touch on this subject, but for now let's take a look at how our justice system is treating these problems.
The Steubenville High School rape case is probably the most recent public attention case in politics. Whereas this case was fairly simple, since there was video taken of the victim and the perpetrators were clearly displayed in the video, it was a pretty easy case. However, what happens when cases have little evidence? Here's a little piece by NPR that helps you understand how we prosecute a rape case without DNA evidence.
They bring up very good points about how trials without evidence are treated. Why should Jurors believe that the victim has truly been wronged when the only thing they have to go on is his or her word? What happens when the potential assailant has multiple references for their character to say to the contrary? Does that put the case for the victim dead in the water?
Well, let's look at it from the opposite viewpoint as well. What if a "victim" is simply a deranged acquaintance or friend? Could it be possible for this person to paint an innocent person as a criminal, simply due to how our justice system works? Would it be possible to turn the "assailant" into the victim? As a jury, you must keep in mind that this is a possibility also!
So where do we go from here? How does a real victim go about prosecuting the assailant when there is no real evidence? Would it be worth it to put that much attention towards their traumatic experience if there's no guarantee they can have justice? How does one defend against a false accusation if someone truly wished to destroy their lives by accusing them of rape?
The answer, unfortunately, isn't clear. There is no way to tell for certain whether or not a person is truly innocent or guilty without evidence, and testimonies are not always valid evidence. I hate to say it, but there's no way to really know. Perhaps the best answer, is to get to the root of the problem and stop rape altogether. Change the hearts and minds of those would be assailants to become understanding of the pain they're inflicting, and to stop them from happening in the first place.
Until that happens, this will continue to remain a gray area issue.