Getting an idea of how big a problem rape is in the US is a herculean task. The organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) has quantified it. The following makes for hard reading.
According to RAINN “1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted). About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.” (18 million women and 3.5 million men).
This is a complex issue. You might as well try to stop bullying because effectively rape is just exacerbated bullying; perhaps without an audience, but who knows.
One of the issues is society has a complicated relationship with rape. Rape is used as a weapon of war against both men and women. In recent years we have seen multiple examples where one culture trying to subdue another systematically rapes its women as a method of subduing the entire population.
Think about that for a moment. A conquering force dominates one part of society as a method of humiliating the other part. The idea being the worst insult is you’re too weak to protect your own women. This type of rape is outlawed under international human rights law and there are multiple Geneva Convention articles against it. Yet it does not stop.
Rape is also used in some facsimile of justice. There are too many cases such as the 2014 case in India where a young woman was deemed to have brought shame on the community by having a relationship with someone from outside of it. Unable to pay the fine the (male) elders imposed, they ordered her gang rape as punishment. (How does that logic even work?)
Of course, there is a difference between mass rape as an act of war or an obtuse vision of justice and the rape of an individual in an isolated act of violence. But there are also some kernels of similarity. The perpetrators, be they the state, a council or an individual are exercising power, exploit weaker victims. Ultimately this is about control.
As long as one part of the population tries to control what another part does and gets away with it, the problem will remain. The idea that ‘I must dress in a way that prevents your lust from being inflamed’ is insulting to all of us.
Are men so unable to control themselves that sight of someone’s elbow will drive them to madness? They should be as insulted by this as the woman who is forced to cover up.
Keeping up the pressure
As a society, the people who are not rapists need to keep up the pressure. We can agree that education matters, we can agree on greater sanctions, we can impose longer sentences, we can imprison those who implicitly condone rape.