A friend of mine, a high school teacher, recently told me what happened when she addressed the issue of rape. I asked her to tell her story, and she agreed to do so under the condition of anonymity.
Last spring break a drunk, unconscious girl was gang raped on a Florida beach. In broad daylight. With hundreds of people watching. Someone even recorded it.
As a high school teacher, this story makes me think about my students, and it makes me sick thinking that something like this could happen to them.
The day after I heard this story, I wanted to talk to my students about rape and the issues that surround it. So, I painted the scene for them with slightly different details but basically the same story: A girl is at a college party and she is stone cold drunk. Unconscious. So, some guys at the party take turns raping her.
Then, I asked them, “By show of hands, whose fault is it? The guys’ fault or the girl’s fault?”
The next few seconds were a blur as I watched several guys (and maybe one or two girls) raise their hands to say that it was the girl’s fault. I was stunned. No, that’s an understatement.
I was disgusted.
I asked them why they blamed the girl and of course they said, “Well, she shouldn’t have been drunk in the first place.” By this point, I was pretty heated.
I said, “So are you suggesting that rape should be permissible if someone is drunk? In that case, every beer can should come with a disclaimer that says: you will be raped if you drink too much of this product.”
Then, when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, one of my male students chimed in with this thought: “It’s not like she’ll remember anyways.”
It’s not like she’ll remember anyways? Yeah, because there are no physical side effects to being raped. Yeah, because people won’t stand around to record it or snapchat it to everyone they know.
Finally, I told them the story about the girl in Florida who was raped, and I tried my best to explain the tragedy of the situation and the even bigger tragedy of our culture’s flawed thinking.
See, the saddest part about all this is that my students’ reaction was a reflection of our society’s ideologies; and that’s proven through the hundreds of people who stood by as a girl was passed around and used up by a couple guys. I guarantee you if that girl were 14 or conscious someone would have stopped them.
Why did rape suddenly become permissible to hundreds of people just because she was drunk?
I remember when I was younger, I was sitting in a church small group, and we were talking about modesty. Someone said, “See girls, if you dress provocatively, you can’t expect boys to look and not touch.”
Um, I’m pretty sure I can and should expect a man to keep his hands off me no matter how I dress.
I believe this is the root of the problem in our culture. Instead of saying, “Men are in control of their own hands and their own actions,” we say, “Ladies provoke men to lust or even rape if they are immodest (or in this case, inebriated).”
Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s extremely important to talk about how to consume alcohol safely, especially to younger people. I think self-respect is extremely important, and I strive to teach my students that their worth should not be found in clothing or their body image. But just because someone fails at one or both of these things doesn’t mean they deserve to be raped or sexually harassed. Period.
As a Christian, I wish I could say that this mentality does not reside within the church. However, I have found it all too often burrowing itself within our foundations and walls. We are focusing all of our energy teaching our youth (and adults) that it’s the women’s responsibility to dress modestly in order to protect the out-of-control sexual appetite of men. Instead, how about we teach them that in the real world, there will be all kinds of people: scantily clad, athletic, curvy, etc. and that they should strive to see women as people, not sexual objects. How a woman dresses or acts does not and should not strip her of her humanity.
Maybe when we start teaching that lesson we can begin to see less sexual tragedy and more positive gender interactions.
As I heard this story, I thought about the boys who raised their hands when asked if a girl is to blame for her own rape. The sad thing is, I wasn’t really that surprised.
Nobody sat down with the guys who blamed the girl—or the guys who raped her on that beach—and told them that rape is ever acceptable or justifiable. Parents don’t finish explaining the birds and the bees with a description of how and when to rape with impunity. These kids already had it in their minds that the victim was at fault—that she brought it on herself. They learned it by watching their parents, their peers, movies, and pornography. Worst of all, some learn it in Sunday School—in churches that teach little boys that they cannot control their genitals and little girls that they are to blame for the lustful thoughts and actions of boys.
It is a glaring indictment on our culture when a group of high school boys can casually state, in a room full of their female peers and teacher, that a woman might be at fault for her own rape.
It is a glaring indictment against our churches when this attitude is so prevalent, and yet feminism is still demonized.
Who is at fault?