Our Sick Society
Rape has been the biggest fear that a woman could face ever since the very first rape occurred. We fear rape in the workplace, on the commute home from work, anywhere outside of our homes, and sometimes even inside the home. Women are taught to have this incredible fear whenever they are alone, where ever they go, and of whoever they are with. Sometimes it can feel as if no man is trustworthy and if women do not stay under lock and key then a rape will most assuredly occur. This fear is the one thing that unites all of the women in this country, no matter their ethnicity, or their economical status. Rape is lurking in every corner, in every man that passes by. We were taught that every man is born with the desire to rape, but this is not true. Our society teaches men to rape, and it teaches women to remain silent about it.
When most people think of rape, they think of a scantily clad women walking down a dark ally way all alone when all of a sudden some skeevy looking man who can not control himself and runs up behind her and rapes her. They almost never think of the high school girls who are rapped because they think that by saying no they will lose popularity. The Shame of Silence by Athena Devlin describes high school interactions almost perfectly. While Devlin was not actually rapped according to the legal terms, she was raped mentally and spiritually. She thought that being invited over to the football player’s house would make her popular. She thought that she was getting accepted. But in reality she was just being used for her body. While this thought disgusted her, she went along with it anyway because she felt that by saying no, no one would like her anymore (475 WIR). There are tremendous pressures in high school and in college as well, to be accepted. Unfortunately, girls are brought up thinking that only being accepted for their bodies is ok and normal. Girls are forced to do things that they might otherwise not do because of fear of not being accepted. Although no one will ever get prosecuted for this, it is defiantly a form of oppression and rape, and many women have been scared forever because of high school experiences such as Devlin’s.
Another form of oppression that occurs in high school, but transcends into all areas of life, is homophobia. Because of extreme homophobia in our country, Gay men and women are sometimes forced to pretend to be people that they are not, to pretend to be heterosexual. This is mainly due to that fact that being gay somehow allows for a higher likelihood of rape (180 OBO). Some men feel that it is ok to rape homosexuals, or even necessary, and our legal system seems to agree for the most part. “Gay men are beaten on the streets; lesbians are kidnapped and ‘deprogrammed.’ The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in an extended study, has documented violence against lesbians and gay men and noted the inadequate response of the criminal justice system.” (397 WIR). Homosexual men have just as much chance of rape as women. It is deemed ok to rape gay men because “they like it” and it is ok to rape gay women because “they will learn to like it.” This is a very scary world to live in for homosexuals, and unfortunately nothing seems to be changing for the better. Homophobia is just as rampant as it has ever been, the term gay is still being used as an insult, and homosexuals still have almost no legal rights. I believe that our society is anti-homosexuality because it threatens the male regime that we are currently living under. Admitting that females do not need males and that not all males are extremely masculine and unfeeling threatens the very essence of our society. This is why our legal system does not do much to protect homosexuals and prevent rapes among them.
Domestic violence and rape also seems to be accepted by our government. While we have always been taught that rapists are deranged strangers, this is not true. More then 1.3 million women in our country are raped but their spouse or significant other (444 WIR). In A letter from a Battered Wife by Del Martin, Martin discuses how her husband has beaten her throughout their entire marriage (454 WIR). The scariest part of reading her story is that there was no where for her to turn for help. Everyone she told about the beatings either did not believe her or tried to make up excuses for why her husband would do that. With no help from anyone it is hard for anyone to conjure the strength to leave someone, especially in the case of physical abuse because of the fear that if they get caught trying to leave they will be beaten even harder. Many women whose husbands are beating them depend on their husbands in one way or another, in most cases they depend on their husbands financially.
Since our government does very little to help women acquire educations and jobs, women with children find it almost impossible to support themselves and their children if they do muster up the courage to leave their husbands. They fear that if they leave, their children will not have everything they might need or want because of lack of income. They fear that their children will have to be brought up in a dangerous neighborhood because they will not be able to afford housing in a safe neighborhood. They fear that if taken to court, their children might be taken away from them. But in reality, if their husbands beat them, they will probably beat the children as well. Women are often placed with the role of protector of the children because of this women are often blamed if the child gets mistreated, or sexually abused. Somehow, even though it is men who are doing the abusing, women are still to blame.
Sexual abuse of children has to be the worst and most scaring abuse possible. How someone could view a child as an object of sexual desire disgusts me. People who were abused as children often carry their scars with them throughout the rest of their lives. They learned quite well that there is no one they can trust, and that they are worthless and unloved. The sad thing is that they often express a lot of blame and anger toward themselves for what happened. “As survivors, [they] often blame [themselves] long after the abuse has ended – for not saying no, for not fighting back, for telling or not telling, for having been “seductive,” for having trusted the abuser. Often there is no way to confirm that someone treated [them] cruelly and that this abuse was devastating to [them].” (170 OBO). Sexual abuse of children is the most perverse action possible. It should be punished with the highest consequences; yet, most cases of child abuse are not believed and go unreported. Freud discovered in the late 1800’s that most cases of hysteria in women stemmed from an uncle or father having touched them sexually while they were children. Yet he covered it up to hide the fact that his own father raped his sister. Society has known about child sexual abuse for a very long time and has only covered it up, never trying to stop or prevent it.
Personally, I have thankfully never been raped. I was brought up in a very sheltered environment and I honestly barely realize how sick our world is until taking this class. I realized that I had a fear whenever I was alone at night, and that I got yelled at by my parents whenever they found out that I spent a lot of time outside alone. I did not realize how often women get rapped, and how much at risk I really am at all times. Yet I have always been afraid. I am afraid to drink anything at parties because there could be roofies slipped into them (170 OBO). I feel the need to carry knifes when I walk alone. I am afraid of being alone with men that I do not know. Although I know that this fear will probably save me from getting raped, I hate that I have to feel it. I hate that fear is necessary to survive as a woman. Rape: the All-American Crime by Susan Griffin describes how I was taught about rape perfectly (469 WIR). I have always been told that all men are evil and only want one thing. Yet I also always believed that rapists were abnormal. I realize now that rapists are taught to be that way, yet I have not found any way to console my fear of getting raped.
I stated previously, all women are united by this fear of rape, regardless of their social status. As sick as rape is, it can bring women together. In the poem Friday Night by Linda Hogan, two women of completely different background are brought together through the one woman’s sadness (442 WIR). It never states whether that woman was raped or beaten, but you get a feeling that those events occurred. The other woman understands her sadness, and they are brought together because of it. They both understand that they are different people with different backgrounds but it does not matter.
Rape is used to hold women back, to make us afraid to achieve. But instead of letting rape beat us down, we should use it to unite together. Perhaps one day all females can forget our differences and be united by our fear of rape and rise up to abolish it. Only through accepting our differences and using them will we ever be able to finally change society.