Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Effect of rape culture: Girls View Sexual Violence as Normal

with 3 comments

A press release from Sociologists for Women in Society:

New evidence from the journal Gender & Society helps explain what women’s advocates have argued for years – that women report abuse at much lower rates than it actually occurs. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 44% of victims are under the age of 18, and 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to police.

The study, “Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse,” will appear in the June 2014 issue of Gender & Society, a top-ranked journal in Gender Studies and Sociology. The findings reveal that girls and young women rarely reported incidents of abuse because they regarded sexual violence against them as normal.

Sociologist Heather Hlavka at Marquette University analyzed forensic interviews conducted by Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) with 100 youths between the ages of three and 17 who may have been sexually assaulted. Hlavka found that the young women experienced forms of sexual violence in their everyday lives including: objectification, sexual harassment, and abuse. Often times they rationalized these incidents as normal.

During one interview, referring to boys at school, a 13 year-old girl states:

“They grab you, touch your butt and try to, like, touch you in the front, and run away, but it’s okay, I mean… I never think it’s a big thing because they do it to everyone.”

The researcher’s analysis led her to identify several reasons why young women do not report sexual violence.

  • Girls believe the myth that men can’t help it. The girls interviewed described men as unable to control their sexual desires, often framing men as the sexual aggressors and women as the gatekeepers of sexual activity. They perceived everyday harassment and abuse as normal male behavior, and as something to endure, ignore, or maneuver around.
  • Many of the girls said that they didn’t report the incident because they didn’t want to make a “big deal” of their experiences.  They doubted if anything outside of forcible heterosexual intercourse counted as an offense or rape.
  • Lack of reporting may be linked to trust in authority figures. According to Hlavka, the girls seem to have internalized their position in a male-dominated, sexual context and likely assumed authority figures would also view them as “bad girls” who prompted the assault.
  • Hlavka found that girls don’t support other girls when they report sexual violence. The young women expressed fear that they would be labeled as a “whore” or “slut,” or accused of exaggeration or lying by both authority figures and their peers, decreasing their likelihood of reporting sexual abuse. [Sisterhood may be powerful, but it apparently is also scarce. - LG]

The young women in the study provided insight into how some youth perceived their experiences of sexual violence and harassment during sexual encounters with men. In particular, the study pointed to how the law and popular media may lead to girls’ interpreting their abuse as normal. According to the author, policymakers, educators, and lawmakers need to address how sexual violence is actually experienced by youth beginning at very young ages in order to increase reporting practices, and to protect children from the everyday violence and harassment all too common in their lives.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 April 2014 at 3:12 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

3 Responses

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  1. I have no doubt these statements are true; even as an adult, I hear many women respond to sexual harrassment and even assault in similar terms: “no big deal” “it happens all the time” “she was asking for it” “they can’t help it” or “she regretted it in the morning so she tried to turn it into his fault” are common excuses. If adults don’t take it seriously, how can we expect kids to think it matters?

    Melanie S.

    15 April 2014 at 3:07 pm

  2. …I was off Internet for a week, thus my tardy reply.

    The oddity to my mind is specifically that it is <emwomen making the comments. Men making the comment I can understand as mindlessly passing along the teachings of rape culture. But I would think that woman would feel a lot of empathy for a sexually assaulted woman, thinking “There but for the grace of God…” But perhaps that’s the reason for the response: they can all too easily recognize that they, too, might become a victim, and try as least uncomfortable option available to blame it on the woman—or, in other words, they are saying that women are in control and anything bad that happens is the woman’s fault because the woman totally controls the situation: to put it simply, they are saying what they believe, and they believe it because it’s a more comfortable idea than the idea that the woman may NOT be in control, that she can be truly a victim, through no fault of her own. That’s where many clutch at judgmental statements to preserve their illusion. And, truly, having a good sense of control is psychologically nourishing. And, obviously, some hazards can be minimized (though never eliminated entirely).

    LeisureGuy

    22 April 2014 at 2:00 pm

  3. That is one of the most thoughtful and intelligent commentaries I’ve ever heard on the subject–particularly in addressing why women themselves would be so hard on other women. I speak from personal experience when I say that this attitude is common. When I was in college, the attitude toward any woman who said she was raped generally tended toward the “she’s a slut” response, and that includes when a woman brought charges against several summer residents at a fraternity house for gang rape while she was passed out. This was the same summer when someone started using what is often referred to as “roofies” to drug women on campus and the first several accusers were treated with almost no serious regard by the local (town) police as well as the campus authorities.
    There’s quite a lot I could add here, but I decided against it. Suffice to say, it was several years before the college or the town started actively believing in the veracity of these claims and taking steps to punish those responsible.

    It makes me particularly angry whenever a woman is targeted because she speaks out against her attacker, as in the Steubenville rape case. The girl was drugged and carried across state lines then publicly raped and videotaped…and still there is a large contingency who will say her pressing charges is “ruining the futures” of the boys who committed this heinous crime. Excuse me for being absolutely nauseated and simultaneously furious that anyone could hold such a belief. Those boys should be in prison, not paraded as some poor little martyrs to the cause of freedom of speech or whatever b.s. defense exists for recording the crime and putting it in YouTube.

    Melanie S.

    22 April 2014 at 11:06 pm


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