Rape culture is defined by the Women’s Center at Marshall University as “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”
I have come to discover that rape culture is rooted in gender inequality and patriarchy. In Nigeria, a place where most decisions are largely influenced by religion and local culture, it comes as no surprise that rape culture has become prevalent in its society. Most of the generally held beliefs impose the idea of purity on only the girls, while boys are in a way given carte blanche. This deprives many girls of simple liberties that boys freely enjoy without a second thought to their safety and opportunities.
If you are oblivious to such findings, you will think rape culture to be a myth, but here is the kicker—it isn’t. This is one of the many reasons rape and sexual assault thrives in our community. It’s the reason people would rather laugh when a girl is uncomfortable with being harassed on the street and dismiss it as normal instead of intervening. It is why “boys will be boys” has become a normal response to harmful behaviors from boys who grow up to be even more harmful men. It is why it took years for male rape to be recognized by the law and even despite that, people are more willing to joke about sexual assault on boys claiming that boys and men must enjoy any sexual advances thrown their way because they are the ones who are supposed to explore their sexual prowess.
Rape is an injustice that can hardly be punished in Nigerian society because of how acceptable it is. No one is held accountable for making rape jokes, therefore turning the trauma faced by women, and sometimes men into a laughable thing. It ignores the violation and even normalizes it. The burden is then put on the woman to keep herself safe at all times, never to go out at night, to second guess every advance made by men because again, whatever harm that comes from men is normalized, accepted, and hardly ever goes punished.
The fact that women are mostly getting raped by men that they know questions the whole “don’t go out at night” advice that’s reserved exclusively for women. The lack of support victims get is telling. When a woman has been violated, she expected to be ashamed, hide, and be quiet, so how does she get justice? How do we send a strong warning to rapists when the only warning is for the victims, somehow telling them that if they speak up, they will be shamed for using their voice?
We ask the victims who are already dealing with unthinkable trauma, why they were at the said location of their assault like women haven’t been raped in their own homes, churches, and all other spaces considered as safe. We ask if they enjoyed it; we debate their experiences. We tear them apart even before the accused perpetrator defends himself. Rape stories are uncomfortable for us, so it is much easier to view the allegations as a lie, ignoring the disturbing numbers, which in turn has made the society largely ignorant about consent.
Blaming victims gives perpetrators invisibility, a superpower, which emboldens them, causing them to become repeat offenders. By the time their stories come to light, they would have committed the crime multiple times. Also, placing blame on the victims cripples them, what that does is that it sends a message across to the victims, from the society that they don’t matter, hence giving the perpetrator a pat on their back. Just in case we were mistaken, rapists are the cause of rape. Rape is a crime. However, in societies like Nigeria, unlike other societies where the act is unacceptable or frowned upon, rape and sexual violence thrive and this is due to several factors, one of which is people being uneducated on the subject of rape.
What is rape?
Conversations around rape are shrouded with many misconceptions. Rape continues to be conflated with sex. Rape is about violence but is not always violent. It is a power tool; it is a crime of control and a weapon of war. Rape culture is not always overt, often it is subtle, creeping upon us.
How Can This Heinous Crime be reduced?
We must educate young people about their bodies, to understand consent, and encourage them to speak out. We should raise boys and girls with equal opportunities and recognition. We must protect girls in parts of the country where early girl child marriage is still practiced. We must ensure that our society is no longer a place where rapists hold the power to slut-shame their victims, dictate the narrative, or shame the victim because of their social capital.
Here, the taboo is being raped as opposed to being a rapist. The shame must no longer be put on the victims; it belongs solely to the rapist. We must build a society where victims are supported and guided on the journey to getting justice. Our society must be fairer and justice must not be reserved for those who can manipulate the system with money, fame, or influence.
We need advocacy structured and tailored for men by men; it is time to stop over educating women on how not to get raped and start educating men on how to ask for consent. In our society, men’s sexual prowess is treated as a game, they get to conquer women and be hailed for it while women must maintain a low profile.
We must stop being sexist; girls and boys are equal. We must stop using religion as a tool to stifle girls and women, to promote purity culture for just the girls and women, and inexhaustible grace for boys and men. This sort of mindset, if it doesn’t change, damages society, leaving all of us at risk.
Let’s talk about it; what are the ways rape crimes can be reduced in a society? Leave your comments below. Also remember to like, share and subscribe, never to miss an update.
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About The Author: Karo Omu is the founder of Sanitary Aid initiative (sanitaryaidng.com) and a lover of life. Connect with her on Instagram with @duchesskk and @sanitaryaidng. And if you are a Twitter junkie as she is, check her out with— @duchesskk.
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