Thinking Critically About Rape Culture: 10 Questions All Teachers Should Consider

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Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/f3en95
Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/f3en95

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, one American is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds. Sixty-eight percent of sexual assaults are never reported to the police, and 98% of perpetrators will never spend a day in prison.

Forty-four percent of victims are under the age of 18, and 4/5 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

The implications are wide and varied here, but one thing is absolutely certain: if you’re an American teacher, it’s time to begin thinking critically about rape culture and acting with intention.

Efforts to illuminate these realities have inspired much debate, opening important dialogue regarding what constitutes rape culture, which social and behavioral factors contribute most heavily to the development of such cultures, and what can be done to challenge them.

These conversations seem to be amplified on college and university campuses where instances of sexual violence have inspired victims and their advocates to advocate loudest for change. This is an important beginning, but change must happen within all learning institutions if any real difference is to be made.

The fact is that it may be easier to study rape culture within the confines of college and university campuses because this is where young people live and learn and work and socialize together. Campuses are communities that inspire focused studies and generalizations.

Sexual violence happens everywhere though. Rape cultures take root long before young adults move into their dorm rooms. Expecting colleges and universities to accept primary responsibility for the problem or its resolution is dangerous, and expecting the professionals who work in higher education to lead the change is likely too little too late.

Campuses are communities that inspire focused studies and generalizations. Sexual violence happens everywhere though.

This is a problem that all of us must strive to understand and attend to, especially those of us who play a role in shaping the beliefs, values, and behaviors of young people. We can’t allow our biases to delude us here.

It’s time for every teacher to think critically about rape culture and consider the difference that can be made within his or her own classroom or school.

I won’t pretend to have answers here. In fact, every potential solution I’m acquainted with yields its own unintended and potentially negative consequences.

I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself in the company of those who ask very powerful questions about this issue though. Perhaps you’ll find them worthy of consideration yourself. Your students might benefit from discussing them with you and with other trusted adults as well.

Ten Questions to Consider About Rape Culture

  1. Which of our expectations about gender, sexuality, and power promote rape culture, and how can we begin challenging them?
  2. What is victim blaming? Where have you noticed this at work within our system?
  3. Where do we find examples of sexual objectification?
  4. Where do we notice the trivialization of sexual violence or the minimization of actions, beliefs, and values that eventually contribute to this problem?
  5. Are we apathetic to the reality of sexual violence in our community?
  6. Are our survivors of sexual violence stigmatized or even quietly discouraged from speaking out?
  7. Which of our widely accepted (or perhaps, even celebrated) social roles, behaviors, and group dynamics support the potential development of sexual aggression?
  8. How can we better help those victims who are reluctant to report and seek support?
  9. Where do we notice instances of disrespect or inequity among students and staff?
  10. How can we begin conversations about these very sensitive issues without alienating people further?

Questions like these are difficult to reflect on in the quiet of my own mind, so the notion of opening a wider dialogue around them is nothing short of daunting for most people. I get it, but I’m not deterred by it.

We need to start some courageous conversations.

I plan to this year.

How about you?

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.

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