The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) (2009) is the “The nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.” According to this accredited anti-sexual violence charity, every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. Furthermore, they report that approximately 1 in every 6 women has been the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault. In 2003, 9 out of every 10 rape victims were female (RAINN). The statistics speak for themselves and support the theory that sexual assault is a prevalent issue in the United States. What the statistics do not examine is the reason sexual assault occurs. Moreover, the statistics fail to explain why women are most often the victims of these sexual assaults. This paper will attempt to uncover the truth behind the numbers, by examining research and theories on why professionals believe sexual assault occurs.
While several theorists have presented their understanding of the motivations for rape, no one theory has been solely acknowledged as the correct answer. Understanding sexual assault is a complex issue and may be explained by a variety of factors that play parts in the greater whole. It is a collaboration of institutional and socialized norms that discriminate against women and the characteristics they are associated with. As Marilyn Frye (1983) discussed in her book The Politics of Reality, the oppression of women, like the oppression of many other minority groups can be described as a birdcage. It is her assertion that, when one is close to the cage, each wire stands as an individual hindrance and can simply be dodged, but if one is to back away from the wire and see the cage fully, the collection of the wires is the force which prevents escape (Frye, 1983). Similarly, the explanations for rape could be viewed as individual theories or experiences that women could simply avoid, but if one is to consider each theory and experience as having its own power and place in the system of oppression, escaping its grip seems much harder.
Since women are most vulnerable to sexual assault, it is important to first examine the woman’s perspective on why are they so often offended. One of the most accepted feminist theories on violence against women, including sexual assault, is the media’s influence on socialization. According to Alyn Pearson (2000), more recently, women have been convinced that they have equality in the world, but subliminally, society is still mass marketing their sexist ideals. There is a confusing combination of messages: one telling women they are capable and equal; the other covertly pressuring them to meet unrealistic goals expressed through the objectification of women in the media. These goals socialize viewers into cultural norms and accepted behavior. Subsequently, women are pressured with conforming to fit media standards and they are taught to accept the violence towards them by their male counterparts (Pearson,...