We've all supported a system that asks more questions of the victims than the accused.
Although it is much maligned for the random indiscretions that manifest on platforms like Facebook, social networks have been a blessing in one major regard; they have fostered conversation that we were once too scared or oblivious to have. Sexual violence and predation are high on this list, as is the fact that somehow we've all helped endorse rape culture.
So, first things, what is rape culture?
Explaining this without leaving out the kinds of details that grow in importance is something most commentators on the subject find difficult.
What I find to be closest to an astute explanation is that it represents every attitude or behaviour that creates an environment that enables or at the least, condones rape.
The imbalance in gender relations in Nigeria has created a society where male entitlement is excused and as we have even learned, much of what many men see as normal sexual behaviour is actually harassment.
The entire point of being a culture is that it has become something we engage in as a society.
Somehow, we've all helped to support the system. In the spirit of fixing our mess this year, here are some ways you may have endorsed rape culture.
(1) Asking what the victim wore:
It's important to remember that nothing can justify the actions of a rapist.
The urge to violate a person's agency is behavioural, not entirely motivated by the allure of a half-naked body as most apologists will have you believe.
Asking questions like "What did she wear" only blame the victim for being violated and shifts the blame and responsibility from the rapist.
(2) Our attitude towards accusations of rape:
Here's the cycle. A young woman accuses a man of rape. Cue false outrage. Civil society and Nigerians on social media respond with fury and calls for the perpetrator's head.
Blogs and influencers curate every whiff of air that escapes anyone's lips regarding the incident. The Police issue a number of statements. The story stops making the news. People lose interest.
Compare how we treat reports of armed robbery and theft with urgency, as opposed to the subtle doubts that meet every girl who accuses a man of rape or sexual harassment.
If we ignore or dismiss rape allegations in the manner that we do, eventually in most cases, victims will be reluctant to share their stories. Rapists will become bolder and daring knowing that fear protects their evil deeds.
(3) Putting the onus on the victim to prove herself:
What differentiates accusations of rape from any other random allegation of crime is that it is very sensitive, and the events can have a debilitating effect on the victim if not handled appropriately.
Rape is difficult to report, mostly because it requires the victim to come to terms with an incident they would rather forget. However, we find that we often put the burden on the victim to prove that the events they claim happened, giving the benefit of the doubt to the accused.
To be fair, this is a function of the desire to be "on the safe side", especially considering those random reports where men are accused of rape, only for the events to suggest something different happened or worse, nothing at all. Still, we need to find a balance.
Creating a society that treats such claims with hostility will only make it difficult for victims to report rape, and give rapists cover to hide under.
(4) Catcalling and making women feel less safe in streets than men do:
So, men defend catcalling by saying it's just talking.
Unfortunately, this ignores the people taking the shots and the real-time reviews on her body type and the fit of her dress that she has to prepare for when she's walking through a street in daylight.
These unnecessary shows of masculine power (or "men being men" if we want to be childish). Making women feel unsafe in the streets that they live in winks at the people who actually get physical.
(5) Rape Jokes:
They are not funny. They're insensitive. You shouldn't have to tell people these things.
Unfortunately, rape has become so normalised that grown men who get paid to stand on stage, 'crack' jokes about the subject.
Making light of such a sensitive issue is rape culture.
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