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Accountability The Only Solution For Global Rape Culture

Cassie Paton |
September 17, 2013 | 3:35 p.m. PDT


What makes some young men feel entitled to—and some young women feel deserving of—non-consensual sex? (FreeVerse Photography, Creative Commons)
What makes some young men feel entitled to—and some young women feel deserving of—non-consensual sex? (FreeVerse Photography, Creative Commons)
In a controversial decision, an Indian judge sentenced four men to death for the gruesome gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old female student.

The New Dehli story sparked outrage around the world when it broke last December, with many people demanding stricter laws for violent crimes committed against women. Though the verdict is widely considered to be justice for the victim and a victory for global women’s rights in general, we’ve still got a long way to go. In many ways, the current state of women’s rights is still grim. 

In a recent United Nations survey conducted in the Asia-Pacific region, a shocking percentage of men admitted to having committed rape. Take a guess at the figure: one in 20? One in 12?

Try one in four. The survey, which interviewed more than 10,000 men between the ages of 18 and 49 throughout the region, revealed that the most common motivators for rape among those interviewed were revenge and sexual entitlement. Surprisingly, alcohol was low on this list of motivators.

Before we go writing this off as a sad but inevitable result of low income and limited freedoms in the developing world, let’s take a look at our own country.

Another recent study, this one conducted in the U.S., surveyed more than 6,000 college students. Fifty four percent of the women interviewed had been victims of some form of sexual abuse, with one in four having survived rape or attempted rape. Just as chilling: Thirty-five percent of the young men interviewed admitted that under certain circumstances, they would commit rape if they knew they could get away with it.

This “getting away with it” attitude seems to be at the root of the problem and is perpetuated by the continuously light sentences being handed out to rapists by judges. Take, for example, the gang rape case in France last year in which the majority of 14 men charged with rape were acquitted while the rest received no more than a year of jailtime. Or the more recent case in Montana, where a teacher was given only 30 days in jail for having sex with his 14-year-old student. With such minimal repercussions for sex offenders, what lesson is our youth learning? That it’s not a crime to force sex if you’re a man, and that you won’t be taken seriously as a victim if you’re a woman. 

Other questionable social teachings are brought to light by another survey, conducted among American high school students. An overwhelming majority of boys and girls said that they believe forced sex to be acceptable under certain circumstances, such as if a man had spent a lot of money on a woman, if the woman had previous sexual experience or if the two were married.

So what do these statistics say about society’s attitude toward women overall? What makes some young men feel entitled to—and some young women feel deserving of—non-consensual sex? The figures make it undeniably clear that sexual violence is still very much a problem, even—if not especially—in our developed nation. The motives men cited for rape confirm that the long-held belief that women are unequal to men in most cultures is still rampant. And the alarming percentage of American youth who believe there are certain justifications for rape indicates the same.

But how is any of this solved? The New Dehli case is an extreme but important example of zero tolerance for sexual violence, and only if there is more of this accountability in court systems worldwide will we see a global shift in attitudes toward women.


Reach Contributor Cassie Paton here; follow her here.



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