The Steubenville rape trial has provoked a lot of excellent discussion in which I’ve partaken to some extent privately elsewhere online. In short, the best articles I think you can read on the matter are Laurie Penny’s wonderful article in the NewStatesMan and Lauren Nelson’s excellent examination of rape culture over at rantagainsttherandom (please note those two links come with a VERY STRONG TRIGGER WARNING)
The only thing I would like to add to this is in reaction to the number of discussions which I have seen hijacked by the ‘why did she get so drunk?’ and ‘young girls should learn to defend themselves’ type of comments. Look, I get where these kind of sentiments are coming from – as the mother of a teenage daughter I absolutely do – but I’m actually quite invested in us all getting out of the habit making those types of comments as part of a discussion of rape. Why? Because when a discussion of rape is immediately (and inevitably) followed by ‘young girls should learn to protect themselves and not get into situations of vulnerability’ it does several things:
It becomes a conversation about self defense and not a conversation about sexual violence… this immediately deflects the focus onto ‘what could the victim do to prevent this’ and away from ‘why do so many people think this violence is ok/inevitable’. It also implies that most rape is avoidable if only you do the ‘right thing’… in fact most rape in the world is not avoidable, at this time in the Republic of Congo (as one sad example) it’s widely believed that more women have been raped than have not (and repeatedly). Around the world woman are raped at home, in school, on buses and in work; they are raped while sober, while ill, while pregnant. They’re raped by strangers and trusted relatives, by soldiers and policemen, teachers and doctors. They’ve been raped because they wore a burca, because they didn’t wear a burca, because they were black, jewish, white. Because they couldn’t fight back, because they tried to fight back.
You get what I mean? There is no one reason. There is no one type. The only consistent fact is that there was a rapist.
During a conversation on rape the focus should not be about the victim, but the perpetrator. Always the perpetrator. Why? Because then maybe we will stop thinking (no matter how subliminally) that rape only happens in certain kinds of situations to certain kinds of women, and will begin to ask ourselves why does it happen so often, in so many different ways, to so many different types of person.
Edited to add: FILM CRIT HULK’s interesting and in-depth essay, WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE TALK ABOUT RAPE
CAUSES OF RAPE: STATISTICAL ANALYSIS