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Rape Culture: How Society Reacts To Rape

1540 words - 6 pages

What do you think and feel when you hear the word rape? Do you feel uncomfortable? Maybe even angry? Your certain feelings and emotions towards this word is a result of rape culture. Rape culture, essentially, is how a society as a whole sees and reacts towards rape or instances of rape. In 2013 rape was defined by the FBI as, “Penetration… of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” (Division’s Crime Statistics Management Unit 1). The definition was finally changed after the old definition deemed inappropriate by today’s standards, which beforehand, stated that physical force needed to be used for rape to be considered rape. This is good news for men and women who have been fighting for the definition to be changed, but unfortunately this does not mean that state laws are being changed the same way. Even though the FBI may acknowledge the older inappropriate definition, most states do not. Sexual assault is a commonly unreported crime, where only an average of 36% of sexual abuse is actually reported to the authorities (Planty 7). Some forms of rape can include physical harm, threats, and even death of the victim, and most victims do not want to tell others for fear of criticism, self-blame, or even the fear that their attackers will carry out on their threats. In many cases, victims do have a reason to be afraid. When someone is brave enough to come forward and say they were sexually assaulted, they are putting themselves in the position of being in not only a long legal process, but also having their motives questioned and misunderstood, which is the last thing they want after their experience. The legal system in the United States does not make it easy for rape victims to have their voices heard, and many are still fighting to this day to change that.
Rape in Missouri, at the first degree, is defined as sexual intercourse with another person who is incapacitated or incapable of consent, or lacks the capacity to consent, or by the use of forcible compulsion (Missouri General Assembly Statutes 566.030). Most states though, have agreed to use other words and phrases instead of “rape” when stating charges to a defendant such as sexual conduct, sexual assault, sexual abuse, indecent liberties, aggravated sexual contact and battery (Brown 8). Michigan was the first to decide this in 1975 (Michigan section 750.520j). The feminist movement that began in the late 1960s was the main cause for this, saying that rape laws were unfair, and sexist against women (Gilmore 1).
One example of what is so controversial in many rape cases, is the Commonwealth v. Berkowitz in 1994. The two college sophomores were both acquaintances, and the complainant had continuously said “no”, before and during sexual intercourse. This case was a classical example of the dispute between date rape, which is rape by someone the victim knows, and of the classical definition of rape,...

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