2014 is coming to a close, and there's no doubt we've made great strides this year. But, tell me: how can a nation so technologically advanced and so progressive when it still treats its victims of sexual assault and rape as if we were in the dark ages? Does the ethical treatment of human beings only matter if they're white and male? Because that seems to be the subtext to every single allegation or trial in which victims are told they are complicit in their own assault. The men or women who committed these horrible crimes are treated with more respect.
“And at the same time, you’re telling me you’re in rehab, you’re still very fragile, he offered you wine, that was a no-no in your view, but now he offers you a pill, and you still trust him?”
Including this image from Dickinson's modeling career has a strong underlying message. She is wearing heavy makeup, she is sexualized, she is submissive. This image undermines Dickinson's story and makes her seem less credible. This is what we do to victims that come forward. During coverage of the Steubenville rape case, CNN's Poppy Harlow remarks:
“These two young men—who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students—literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.”
No, this quote does not describe the victim of this heinous crime, but her convicted rapists who took advantage of an intoxicated 16-year-old girl. They undressed her, penetrated her with their fingers, transported her body, and took pictures and video of the entire event, sharing them with friends through social media.
Recently, celebrities like Lady Gaga, Shia LeBeouf, and Kesha have all spoken openly about being sexually assaulted. These are admissions that should not be taken lightly, considering what a horrible track record the court system and American media has with past victims. Although the allegations surrounding Bill Cosby are horrible, it seems that these brave women have inspired others to speak more openly about their own traumatic experiences. The seedy underbelly of Hollywood has been exposed. We would be wise not to forget anytime soon that people are not always what they seem. “America's Dad” is anything but. People mistakenly assume that someone like Cosby could never be capable of such horrible crimes because of the wholesome persona he's cultivated throughout the years. However, it's never been more clear that we need to reassess our perceptions of rapist and rape victims. Rape is not singular for one race, gender, age group, or any other demographic, and the victims are just as diverse.
The treatment of male rape victims is particularly astounding. LeBeouf's assault only proves that we need to redefine the parameters of what constitutes rape. Shia describes his experience in an interview with Dazed's Aimee Cliff:
“One woman who came with her boyfriend, who was outside the door when this happened, whipped my legs for ten minutes and then stripped my clothing and proceeded to rape me. . . There were hundreds of people in line when she walked out with disheveled hair and smudged lipstick. It was no good, not just for me but her man as well. On top of that my girl was in line to see me, because it was Valentine’s Day and I was living in the gallery for the duration of the event – we were separated for five days, no communication. So it really hurt her as well, as I guess the news of it travelled through the line. When she came in she asked for an explanation, and I couldn’t speak, so we both sat with this unexplained trauma silently. It was painful.”
Sexual assault is not solely perpetrated by men, and the victims are not exclusively female. In a 2010 study by the CDC, 4.8% of the 7, 421 men interviewed stated they were forced to penetrate their partner (of which 79.2% were female). This is only from a small survey; the number of men sexually assaulted is most likely drastically higher than those reported considering that society still refuses to accept that men can be victims of sexual assault and rape.
The Slate article, “When Men are Raped” by Hanna Rosin, notes that when the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey expanded their definition of sexual violence in 2010, the number of men who reported experiences sexual assault rose dramatically. Rosin states:
“The definition includes victims who were forced to penetrate someone else with their own body parts, either by physical force or coercion, or when the victim was drunk or high or otherwise unable to consent. When those cases were taken into account, the rates of nonconsensual sexual contact basically equalized, with 1.270 million women and 1.267 million men claiming to be victims of sexual violence.”
This is an insanely high number.
“So the star of ‘Nymphomania' allows people to go into a room with whatever implements they want, including a whip, and when he could easily just push the woman off allows himself to be aroused and then calls it rape? “
First off, arousal is a physical response—it does not constitute consent. There is a common misconception that men cannot be sexually assaulted because it directly contradicts common ideas about male sexuality. We have been taught that men are sexual beings who will never refuse an intimate encounter. Many men who have been assaulted are often too ashamed to report it. And regardless of how you feel about Shia LeBeouf as an actor, he is a human being who deserves recognition for his traumatic experience.
Rape is non-consensual. People are assaulted in so many situations. When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter where it takes place, what they were wearing, who they were with, if they were intoxicated, etc. All that matters is that it was not consensual. When sex is non-consensual, it's not sex, it is rape. This “grey area” that people discuss regarding sexual assault is a bullshit fabrication of rape apologists. All that matters is consent. If that is not present, the additional circumstances do not matter.