KC Currents
1:06 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Sexual Assault, Rape Culture And Missouri State Law

The Maryville rape case leaves us with a lot of questions – the main one being: why was the case dropped? And, perhaps more importantly, why do similar cases keep happening all over the country? 

For a better understanding of the issue, KC Currents' Susan Wilson talked with Dr. Kimberly Lonsway, Director of Research at End Violence Against Women International.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

On myths surrounding rape and sexual assault:

People tend to think in terms of what sexual assault is... in terms of what consent is. 'Consent' is so difficult to establish... Is it consent, is it not? How can we possibly know? And I think on the one hand, yes, there is a lot of confusion. On the other hand, I think when we look at the facts of these cases, it really isn’t as unclear as we make it out to be. For example, there’s a body of research on sexual assault perpetrators. The way they talk about what they’re doing, they are aware the victim is saying ‘no’ or crying or making excuses or trying to squirm away. They see that behavior, they just don’t care… because in their mind, the person consented to the sex two hours ago when they put that skirt on, in their head, the person consented to the sex already, so their behavior now is irrelevant.

On a larger rape culture in teen communities:

Teens are just echoing what they see in adult communities. Many people have talked for a long time about the existence of a rape culture, and I think once you start looking for that and seeing that, you can't unsee it anymore. We are surrounded by images that women exist for sex, that women essentially want sex all the time, that we say ‘no’ but we really mean ‘yes.’ And we can’t talk about those media messages without now, sadly, talking about pornography. The existence, the prevalence of pornography is astonishing in terms of how many people participate in pornography, and how many teens in particular, that’s their source of information on sex, that’s where they learn what sex is. And that’s terrifying when we look at what messages that today’s pornography is sending. It’s not the 1950’s pornography. This is very much an imagery around sexual aggression, not just being acceptable, but desired that that’s what women want.

On social media’s role in rape culture:

It can magnify it. It can normalize it… we look around at each other to see what’s acceptable. Now, all of a sudden, we can see far beyond the other people standing in the room with us — we can see people everywhere engaging in social media… yet at the same time, it’s such a depersonalized environment, free of consequences. Behaviors can get more outrageous... I think that does also play a role, with taking the videos and the posting, it becomes this much more public act. And one thing we’re seeing among victims, is the rape doesn’t end when the rape ends. With social media, the video may be circulated and played, so the rape goes on and on and on. But then, the backlash that we see in these communities, especially among adolescents, and in small towns and other closed communities people take sides, and they have passionate opinions. The level of torment, and name-calling is something we’re really seeing happening quite a bit.