Today's Politics, Climate Reveals Need to Shift Views on Rape Allegations

Nov 17, 2018

In America, sex in general is an extremely taboo topic. This makes rape an even more controversial subject. It is common knowledge that rape is a problem in our society, however, there are a lot more aspects to consider other than just morals. 

People often ask, “If rape is so bad then why do most cases go unreported?” or “If it should be taken seriously, then how come there are so many false allegations of rape?” These are valid questions. 

That said, these are questions coming from the average bystander, someone who maybe is not thinking about every possible scenario. In order for survivors to feel more comfortable reporting cases of rape, we as a society need to be more accepting and treat each case with the respect it deserves. 

For starters, let’s think about possible reasons victims may have for delaying their report or for not reporting their rape case at all. 

Fear is one common factor. Especially if alcohol was involved or if the survivor feels responsible for the outcome, a rape is less likely to be reported right away, if at all. The survivor may also fear threats of retaliation from the perpetrator, something that is also extremely common. 

Blame, shame, and humiliation are common fears of survivors. In eight out of ten rape cases the victim knew the perpetrator; this is another possible reason why most rapes go unreported. Even the possibility of a rape allegation can severely tarnish someone’s name. If the victim was assaulted by a friend or a neighbor then it is understandable that they might feel pressure to protect the person who raped them. 

Survivors' fear that they will be accused of false allegations is another reason why rape cases go undisclosed. When a false allegation is reported as a rape, not only does it tarnish the name of the accused, it limits the credibility of future reported attacks. Many legitimate rape cases are trivialized due to the credibility of the survivor being questioned. Furthermore, cases not involving weapons and/or injuries are often taken less seriously since there is less visible evidence and they are less likely to be reported. 

Victims are also generally more likely to report a rape if they are absolutely positive the benefits will be worth the costs of coming forward. Additionally, some victims feel like their case was personal and traumatizing and choose not to report it as an attempt at moving on from their experience faster or more easily. These are just possible situations to consider. Every case is different and every victim of rape has their own personal reasons for taking or not taking action and is entitled to their own decision. 

The #MeToo movement carried a lot of momentum in standing up against sexual assault. However, in the recent political climate there are times when it may feel as if we are moving backwards as a society. 

Now is the time we need to stand together against sexual assault. Let this be a reminder that the beliefs of our leaders do not reflect the beliefs of all. It is on us to speak up now and to raise our future generations with the education to respect everyone as individuals regardless of race, gender, or sexuality. Everyone deserves to be heard. 

Today’s political climate only increases survivors’ fear of possible reactions of others and fear of being judged. This is a result of rape culture in our society. 

Rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center

This term has been used many times to describe the current American society and unfortunately, it is accurate. Stereotypically, rape victims are always female and rapists are always male, but the fact of the matter is anyone could be a victim of rape and anyone can be a perpetrator of rape; regardless of gender, sexuality, race, or ethnicity. 

Every time there is a false allegation of rape, every time rape is stereotyped, every time rape is blamed on the victim, it only reinforces rape culture in society. This has been happening for years now and continues to be an extremely prominent problem; which is a huge reflection on us as a society. We all need to do better.

Sarah Shields is a graduate of Gorham High School and has been a regular contributor to Raise Your Voice. She is a student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y.