Content warning: This is about rape and the injustice of it, and stupid stupid rape culture that means many keep asking the wrong questions, and may be triggering for some readers.
Most people seem to be having the wrong conversation about rape. Too often the discussion ends up being about the person who was raped; what they wore, what they were drinking, their sexual history, where they were, their relationship to the person who raped them, so on and so forth. As if my examining the minutiae of the lives of those who have been raped we can somehow find out how to stop rape.
It's the wrong end of the stick, and I know this will be 101 for many readers and bloggers here, but sadly it's still the only end of the stick for many in the media, figures of authority, radio hosts, and politicians.
The problem does not lie with the people who get raped. It never did, never has, never will. You can examine them as much as you like, but you will never find a solution because you are asking the wrong question to the wrong people.
What we need to be talking about, again and again, is WHY PEOPLE RAPE. Why do some people want to have sex with someone who isn't consenting? What's going on in their head that that is ok and even desirable? Is their decision-making impaired by alcohol or another substance? Are they callous and narcissistic? Do they actively want to have power over another to make up for some hole inside themselves? Do they think that is how you show someone you love them, because that's what they've seen as a child?
We must ask, and answer, these questions not to excuse the rapist, to minimise the rape, but to work out what the hell is going on that there are some people who think sex without consent is a good thing, something they need in their lives, or how we produced people who care so little about other human beings that consent is irrelevant to them.
We can do this, we just need to decide, resource it and see it through. There are a lot of NGOs and agencies doing incredibly valuable work at low levels, but it needs the omph of state support in my opinion. Not likely currently, but absolutely essential to seriously tackle this really crucial issue that just gets put away in the One Day When We've Solved Everything Else file far too often.
Rape culture enables us to put it away, to forget about it, to put it back to the bottom of the pile time and again. Rape culture allows us to Do Something about rape by actually doing very little at all. Rape culture has to go.
I'm keen to raise my kids to Not Rape. But I don't have all the tools I need to do that because there isn't a focus on this side of the equation. I'm teaching them to have agency over their bodies, to respect other people, to stop being so damn bossy (that one serves many purposes), and I hope I'm helping them to develop empathy. I worry this isn't enough. I do fear that my children might get raped one day, but ultimately that wouldn't be their fault, as terrible as it would be, and is thus largely out of their control, and mine as their parent. What I can hopefully assist with is teaching them to respect others' bodies and choices, actively seek consent, and develop empathy for those around them. That I can take some responsibility for.
Rape is a horrible word, describing a hideous thing. But we don't make it go away by not saying it, by not talking about how and why it happens and who does it.