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Why your daughter has a 1 in 5 chance of being raped, and what to do about it

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We live in an amazing country during a wondrous time. We delight in how modern we are with the internet, swift transportation, the best medical care in history, and so on. We pride ourselves on how allegedly progressive we are as a society, with our races integrated, our women allowed to vote, hold office, and share top spots in every discipline. America is a wondrous country, so why are we still sometimes such barbarians when it comes to our treatment of women? 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - We are fixated on the news from India, as several men who gang-raped and murdered a woman on a New Delhi bus face trial for their infamous crime. However, we know, perhaps subtly, that rape is also an issue in our own country.

Discussing rape in America is still too often an unpopular proposition. Last fall, as many as five Republican politicians mentioned rape in their speeches, and all were swiftly vilified and condemned for remarks which were widely regarded as insensitive towards women. The remarks were,at times,  ill advised, unscientific, and grossly insensitive.

Were we too harsh on them? Are women just too sensitive? Was this just an opportunistic strike by the left against good, moral men?

The fact is women have a right to be sensitive on this issue. We have a genuine problem with rape and it must be addressed. According to essayist Rebecca Solnit, a rape is reported in the United States about every 6.2 minutes. That's going to place a burden on any 911 and police response system, not to mention medical facilities and the amount of investigation and prosecution that must also follow. The price tag for these crimes likely ranges well into the billions of dollars annually, and that's just the law enforcement and medical costs incurred by the epidemic.

We'd be entirely shallow if we only examined this from a fiscal perspective. What matters more is the emotional devastation that results from these crimes. Rape is a deeply traumatizing, intimate crime. It strikes at the core of the person and compromises their sense of safety, well being, and overall health. It can even kill. Whether by suicide or by added violence, about a thousand women in the US die each year after falling victim to some kind of sex crime.

Solnit estimates that one in five women will be raped at some point in their lifetimes, and nine out of 10 rapes will go unreported.

This means a little baby girl, born today, has a 20 percent chance of being raped during her lifetime. Yet, she has only a 1 in 10 chance of reporting the crime to the authorities. She has less chance than that of seeing justice done to her attacker. Finally, the odds that her attacker will be dealt a full measure of justice are even slimmer than that. This means that perhaps 95 percent or worse, of all rapists escape justice and are free to strike again.

What's behind this? the exsitence of Misogyny for one. Despite the advances we have made to women's equality and rights, we sometimes still treat women as second-class citizens in many respects. Women can still earn less than men, can be more likely to be victims rather than victimizers, and live in a society where they are still too often treated as sexual objects.

Our society actively encourages and facilitates sexual objectification via liberal use of contraceptives, immodest fashions, and a pervasive culture of machismo, where women are objects of desire to be conquered, rather than coequal partners in society. Our popular media is no help, reinforcing the sexual status of women through ads which appeal to men based on sexual appeal. Even the books on our shelves appeal to sex to sell.

Let's not construe this as blaming women however. Even if a woman dresses provocatively; or even if a women wears nothing, it is still not an invitation to rape. Also, it should not be assumed that most rapes are the result of women binge drinking at college parties while committing the mistake of dressing poorly amongst men raging with testosterone.

The vast majority of rapes involve ordinary women going about everyday business. Rape happens in homes, during dates, and at work. A few even happen in public. Last year, women have been notoriously raped in parks, and even on buses.

Certainly, some of the victims have been promiscuous women, but these are a very narrow minority - but so what? Let's be clear, even in the throes of passion, if a woman says no, or stop, then it is rape. Even if a relationship is established, it can still be rape.

Any time a person is compelled against their will to participate in any sexual activity, it is rape, no other circumstances apply, period.

Understand that victims range from old women to young children, some virtually babies. Recent headlines have told lurid tales of young girls being gang raped by fellow teenagers.

Even men and boys have been occasionally victimized. Yes, men suffer from rape too.

This is a sickness which pervades our country. It is a civil rights issue. Yes, it is a women's issue, but it's a man's issue as well. Every woman raped has a father, and many have husbands. How can a man say he enjoys a free society when half of its population are subject to victimization?

There are plenty of sick people out there who will perpetrate sexual crimes against others, however, the vast majority of sex criminals are not insane. They know entirely well the difference between right and wrong. They have impulse control and can behave as civilized human beings. The problem is we live in a society that grants license, then fails to punish the wrongdoers.

From as young as the teenage years, and perhaps a bit earlier, young men and boys are taught that sexual conquests are glorious. Our media reinforces this. There's little shame now attached to Swimsuit Issues and internet pornography. Conversely, women are taught this is normal, acceptable behavior, that boys will be boys.

We cannot, nor should we attempt to legislate all morality. However, we must do more to change our culture. The change begins at home, how parents raise their children. Children can be taught respect by managing what they are exposed to and providing a moral context for what they see. This is best done by modeling on behalf of the parents.

Mothers should dress modestly and men should refrain from misogynistic behavior and commentary.

Our society must make it easier for women to report rapes. Statutes of limitations should be extended and women should be familiarized with resources at their disposal. We must also remove the stigma of victimization, and place it upon the perpetrator where it belongs.

Finally, we need to clean up our airwaves and bookshelves, best accomplished by refusing to partake of anything that objectifies women to generate interest.

Whatever happens, we need to try something. One rape is one too many. One rape every 6.2 minutes is an unimaginable tragedy that cries out to the heavens for justice. We ignore those cries at our own peril, and the peril of our daughters.

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