Rape culture is certainly taking it’s toll – and the results are harrowing. A new report on the normalization of sexual violence among young girls and women shows just how often girls view sexual assault as “normal” behavior. We are failing these girls. Big time.
The study, “Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse,” shows that girls and young women rarely report sexual abuse because they have come to regard violence against them as normal. Can you blame them?
From a press release about the study:
During one interview, referring to boys at school, a 13 year-old girl states:
“They grab you, touch your butt and try to, like, touch you in the front, and run away, but it’s okay, I mean… I never think it’s a big thing because they do it to everyone.”
The researcher’s analysis led her to identify several reasons why young women do not report sexual violence.
- Girls believe the myth that men can’t help it. The girls interviewed described men as unable to control their sexual desires, often framing men as the sexual aggressors and women as the gatekeepers of sexual activity. They perceived everyday harassment and abuse as normal male behavior, and as something to endure, ignore, or maneuver around.
- Many of the girls said that they didn’t report the incident because they didn’t want to make a “big deal” of their experiences. They doubted if anything outside of forcible heterosexual intercourse counted as an offense or rape.
- Lack of reporting may be linked to trust in authority figures. According to Hlavka, the girls seem to have internalized their position in a male-dominated, sexual context and likely assumed authority figures would also view them as “bad girls” who prompted the assault.
- Hlavka found that girls don’t support other girls when they report sexual violence. The young women expressed fear that they would be labeled as a “whore” or “slut,” or accused of exaggeration or lying by both authority figures and their peers, decreasing their likelihood of reporting sexual abuse.
Do you know why girls believe the myth that “men can’t help it?” Because we make everything about their choices – not the choices of their male counterparts. One example of this is dress codes that constantly single out females. Even school administrators have gone so far as to suggest that what girls wear distracts boys. How are young women supposed to process this?
If you saw even a fraction of the Steubenville coverage you certainly can’t blame a young woman for not wanting to report an assault. In that case, we had photo and video evidence that a young girl had been raped while unconscious and a disturbingly large number of people managed to make it her fault. She was drunk. She was a whore. She was a sixteen-year-old girl who does what the majority of high-school students do; hang out with friends at a party. And she was a victim.
Rape culture is so ingrained in the pop culture girls consume, can you blame them for thinking sexual violence acceptable? We awarded a grammy to Chris Brown the following year after an assault that left his then girlfriend Rihanna bloodied and bruised. And after that assault, boy were we all pissed, but not at Chris Brown. We couldn’t believe young women were lining up on Twitter to be assaulted by him themselves, with tweets like, “Dude, Chris Brown can punch me in the face as much as wants to, just as long as he kisses it.”
Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. Everyday in the US, more than 3 women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. This is a plague on our country- and a hell that women can not escape. We should be ashamed, very ashamed. And we should be asking a lot of questions- but not to these young women. They are not the problem. They are the future generation, that doesn’t give a shit about themselves because we have all been condoning all of these messages that they consume. If this report is any indication, girls are believing what we are selling them:
You don’t matter.
You are not safe.
Your body is not yours.
Give up and give in.
(photo: Getty Images)