How has the Internet and Social Media had an Impact on the Acknowledgment of Rape Culture in America?

The rape culture debate in America today has never been tenser than before. Recent rape and assault cases affecting top personalities have fueled the raging debate even further, pitting activists, feminists, and concerned citizens against each other. More pathetic is the fact that the internet and social media have been used as avenues to troll, victimize and disparage rape casualties that have come to the front to narrate their ordeal. Definitely, such inhumane activities brought to light on the internet, and social media only give credence to the fact that indeed rape culture is beginning to get acknowledged by Americans. Therefore, the growth of the internet and social media has had both positive and negative impacts on our lives. Positive by the fact that it has improved social interactions in the sense that it has led to the acknowledgment of rape culture among the millennials in America.

According to Emilie Buchwald, author of the book Transforming a Rape Culture, rape culture occurs when society chooses to normalize violence that is sexualized, thereby accepting it and ultimately turning it into a rape culture (Wavaw.ca). According to her book, rape culture is defined as a multiple set of beliefs that support violent behavior on women by encouraging sexual aggression in males. Actually, violence is made to appear sexy, and sexuality is acknowledged as violent. Rape culture makes women sensitive to the perpetuity of threatened violence, which they perceive to be rape itself. This threatened violence could include sexual remarks and be touched sexually. She continues to argue that a rape culture makes normal emotional and physical terrorism towards women. As such, a rape culture makes men and women assume sexual violence to be an inevitable fact of life. Nevertheless, what we consider inevitable could actually be a show of attitudes and values that can undergo transformation (Wavaw.ca).

While the internet and social media have brought transformation to the way we socialize and interact, it has also created space for the perpetuation of uncouth behavior with regard to the rising rape culture in America. For instance, in any given account of assault or rape shared on social media, women are mostly the victims and men the culprits (Burnett). To the few women who amass the courage to share their experiences on social media, they are always vilified and condemned more as liars and gold diggers (Galpin). Just recently, America woke up to damning rape and assault allegations against one of the most revered men in the entertainment industry, Harvey Weinstein (Lee). Indeed, Weinstein had used his power to victimize and treat women as sexual objects indulging in sex trafficking (Lee). The driving force behind his evil actions was the power he wielded in the entertainment industry.

What beats logic is the fact that Weinstein rode free for decades with his indecent acts of sexual assault against women without any of his victims coming to the front. That only says one thing. Her victims were at the mercy of his power and acceded to his male sexual aggression. This explains why they also took ages to come to the front to air their ordeal. So, in essence, this is a society that women feel insecure and helpless against the rape culture to the point of not seeking redress (Galpin). Even more appalling is the fact that more women started accusing Weinstein of his sexual harassment after a number of her victims had started talking about their harrowing experience with the movie director. After Kadian Noble’s accusations, more victims, mostly actresses, came out to the limelight to seek redress against sexual assault by Weinstein (Lee).

The impact that the internet and social media have created about the rape culture is not to be left behind in this entire quagmire. There have been rising cases of sexual victims being demeaned and teased online, making their ordeal even worse than it was before (Lubin et al.). In 2013, as reported by Erin Fuchs, social media makes rape incidences in teens more unbearable than ever. According to Erin Fuchs, two teenage girls committed suicide after they were raped, and their rape incidences shared on social media (Lubin et al.). In this incident, the impact of the internet and social media on the acknowledgment of rape culture was evident. Rather than people taking to social media to condole and support sexual tragedy victims, they bullied them with all kinds of profanity, making the victims more traumatized.

Two of the girls who committed suicide after being vilified included Audrie Peter, a 15-year-old girl, and Reahtaeh Parsons, 17 years old (Lubin et al.). For Parsons, exposure on social media broke her already wounded soul down. She has branded a slut and bullied online by her would-be enemies who circulated photos of her allegations about sexual assault through email (Lubin et al.). In Parson’s case, she had been ganged raped at least a year prior to committing suicide. Before committing suicide, Parsons was devastated to the point of switching school after her photos of sexual assault were circulated online. According to Dr. Rebecca Campbell, a sexual violence expert, and Professor of psychology, teenagers have perfected the art of maligning rape victims by sharing pictures of their gang rapes online, worsening their chagrin (Lubin et al.).

Dr. Campbell’s assertions on sexual violence over the internet and social media cannot be underestimated just yet. Indeed, social media today is ruining the lives of many young women under cover of rape culture that is fast picking pace in America. The sexual bullies of the girls above, whether indirectly or directly, are actually acknowledging the culture of rape in America (Galpin). To someone, it is actually fun and okay to make fun online of a rape victim who is already traumatized and hurting. Essentially, they are perpetuating sexual violence against women online. Things go south, even more, when such social media degradation on rape victims is turned against them to provide evidence on the contrary, actually, to suggest that the rape victim in question consented to sex (Lubin et al.). This, Dr. Campbell argues, is far from the truth as a girl who has consented to sex will not allow her photos to be taken.

In this age, where rape culture is taking shape, victims of rape that stand up to share their ordeal only attract more blame than sympathy. As such, the men who performed the indecent acts on them are made to appear innocent and only coerced into the act by the victims themselves (Galpin). Thomas Wold is a Ph.D. Psychology candidate from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology; he observed that pointing the finger at victims is now a traditional problem exacerbated by the fact that it is now easy to share, and people are often connected.  Wold adds on to say that when an assault is shared on social media, the victims end suffering more due to the added shame (Lubin et al.). Therefore, it is clear that social media makes rape more devastating than before. With such activities that devalue a woman’s dignity on social media, enough evidence is there to confirm that actually, individuals are acknowledging the rape culture in America.

The impact that the internet and social media have had on the acknowledgment of rape culture in America is no longer a secret. In America today, their justice system has handled rape cases involving high-profile individuals such as Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and Brock Turner, among others (Li). Unfortunately, in these instances, reactions and debate on social media have served to influence the outcome of the courts more than a judgment that is based solely on evidence provided (Hildebrand 1059). According to Shannon, an author and past rape victim, she stands her ground that consent has always been the pillar of any discussion (Galpin). That once you excuse discussions about assault and harassment, you are actually giving the green light to rape culture and therefore championing it directly or indirectly.

In reality, negative social media impact on the acknowledgment of rape culture has made more victims fail to speak out about their pain and assault. This because any victim who dares to stand and speak up is branded a liar (Galpin). As such, social media is leading from the front in tearing victims apart. In what is still referred to as victim-blaming, every time a woman points to a man about a rape case, the public tears the woman down into tatters (Li). Thus, the internet and social media do as entities to a rape culture that already champions male dominance in society. According to Shannon, the most common excuses rape culprits cling unto when caught include;

  • The victim was drinking too much

Rape culture makes perpetrators equate too much drinking with consent or an open invitation to have sex (Abbot et al.).

  • She was wearing something provocative(Galpin)

Rapists have assaulted skimpily dressed and fully dressed women in equal measure, and therefore, the issue of provocative dressing leading to rape is an excuse being brought to the front by individuals who have already acknowledged the rape culture (Abbot et al.).

  • She is lying

Claims to false cases of rape are said to be between 2% and 10%. Besides, the majority of the women affected hardly come out to speak.

People that have filled social media today would rather support and defend a serial rapist than believe in the story of one woman broken and wounded because of alleged sexual assault. Things only begin to make sense when more of the victims, especially women, begin to show up in large numbers claiming to have been assaulted by the same perpetrator (Galpin). For instance, in the case of Bill Cosby, 30 women had to come to the front to prove the point that, indeed, Cosby drugged and raped women for ages (Li). Shannon, in a bid to find out about rape culture on social media, conducted a social media experiment with the aim of proving the rape culture point. She picked on a rape culture-related topic, posted it, and boosted the post on her Facebook account for $25.

Unfortunately for Shannon, most of the comments she received were full of insults, threats, and hate. She had written a post about Trump’s locker room talk. The post also attracted political comments. In one of the comments sent to her, Shannon was challenged and torn apart about proof of evidence from the victims who came out to claim that Trump had actually molested them sexually. The victims were dismissed as mere empty talkers (Galpin). Clearly, this is how far people have embraced the rape culture knowingly and unknowingly. For example, in the case of Brock Turner, even though he admitted guilt to his crimes and was to face up to 14 years in prison, the judge in question reduced his sentence to only 3 months (Li). Apparently, this was after a plea from his father saying “20 minutes of action” should not be used to ruin his son’s life (Li).

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However, in the thick of things was Brock Turner’s victim, who had been wounded beyond repair (Li). Adding more pain to the devastating experience is the fact that she had been unconscious when the whole incident happened, and she only came to learn of her story online same time when other people, including her family, were also reading her story. The positive side of things here is the fact that the internet was used as an avenue to bring a sexual perpetrator to justice and help a rape victim seek redresses (Rentschler). Though the story shared online highlighted her harrowing experience, it took her away worth making her feel worthless and less of a human being. Even worse is the fact that the story wounded up while highlighting the swimming star prowess as a swimmer (Li). Alcohol has also been used as a rape myth to justify the action of the perpetrators (Abbot et al.).

This could only serve to portray Turner as someone with great qualities despite ruining someone’s life. Male dominance, violent acts against women, male sexual aggression is vividly noticeable in all this drama and point to a rising culture of rape that has been acknowledged by Americans. In addition, social media are enhancing this. Lately, social media has been awash with court battles and out of court battles between rape victims and their alleged assaulters. In some incidences, such as the one of Brock Turner, he was given a lighter sentence than the one that would have made her victim feel justice has been done. Such a harrowing experience to the victim handled by the courts is a sensational internet story that can light up more fire to either side of the divide (victims and perpetrators). With regard to rape culture, the story seems to accentuate the debate and, more so, acknowledge rape culture by highlighting the fact that a lesser sentence was pronounced on a sexual perpetrator on the pretext that any other sentence, on the contrary, would have ruined his life.

In conclusion, the internet and social media have had a great impact on the acknowledgment of rape culture in America in the sense that it has served to expose and highlight more incidences regarding rape and sexual assault against women. While highlighting these incidences, it has been proven that acts of violence against women and male sexual aggression have not only been done to persons face to face but also on the internet and social media. Consequently, this has led to more disastrous effects, such as two girls committing suicide for being disparaged and trolled over the internet. It is true that the rape culture in America has been fully acknowledged, and party to this acknowledgment is the internet. However, in this entire quagmire, the upside of things is the fact that the internet has been instrumental in bringing to justice the perpetrators of these sexual crimes against women. Incidentally, what also drives these rape cases stories over the internet is the fact that people have acknowledged the rape culture in their lives.

 

Works Cited

Abbot, Rebecca L., Rebbeca M Hayes and Savvanah Cook. “Student Acceptance of Rape Myths On Two College Campuses.” SAGE Journals, 2016, pp. 1540-1555.

Burnett, Zaron. A Gentleman’s Guide to Rape Culture. <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/zaron-burnett/guide-to-rape-culture_b_5440553.html>. Accessed 24 November 2017.

Galpin, Shannon. Social Media Experiement Proves Rape Culture’s Point. <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/shannon-galpin/social-media-experiment-p_b_12530652.html>. Accessed 27 November 2017.

Hildebrand, Meagen M., and Cynthia J. Najdowski. “The Potential Impact of Rape Culture on Juror Decision Making: Implications for Wrongful Acquittals in Sexual Assault Trials.” Alb. L. Rev., vol.78, 2014, p. 1059.

Lee, Benjamin. Harvey Weinstein sued for alleged ‘sex trafficking’ in Cannes. <https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/nov/27/harvey-weinstein-sued-for-alleged-sex-trafficking-in-cannes>. Accessed 27 November 2017.

Li, Winnie M. The Stanford Rape and the Social Media Effect. <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-10/li-the-stanford-rape-case:-a-social-media-game-changer/7500452>. Accessed 27 November 2017.

Lubin, Gus, Eric Fuchs and Michael B Kelley. Social Media Makes Teen Rape More Traumatic Than Ever. <http://www.businessinsider.com/the-impact-of-social-media-on-rape-2013-4?IR=T>. Accessed 24 November 2017.

Rentschler, Carrie A. “Rape Culture and the Feminist Politics of Social Media.” Girlhood Studies (2014), pp. 65-82.

Wavaw.ca. What is Rape culture? <http://www.wavaw.ca/what-is-rape-culture/>. Accessed 28 November 2017.