This past year, rape has dominated the headlines. From front-page coverage of the Penn State trials to Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment to international outcry about gang rape in India to national focus on Steubenville, talking about rape—a long-silenced topic—is finally a mainstream conversation. We are in a unique cultural moment where the ever-present epidemic of sexual violence is being recognized.
We need to not only recognize the reality of rape, but work to end it. We need a platform to honor survivors that will forever change the way the American public responds to their experiences. We need to create a national monument to survivors of rape and abuse.
Personally, I was shocked when the Steubenville rapists were found guilty. I've gotten cynical about prosecution of rape—so few cases lead to punishment that I was excited and surprised to learn that, this time, the legal system worked.
Today we finally have something to applaud in Steubenville: A guilty verdict. Many people were holding their breath in the high-profile rape case, expecting that despite clear evidence of the two defendants’ guilt, our legal system would fail the victim. We thought we’d once again be talking about how a star athlete escaped prosecution.
It’s sad, but finding these rapists guilty is exceptional. According to depressing statistics, only nine percent of rapes in America result in prosecution. Though incarceration is clearly not the sole solution to rape, the fact that these two small-town stars will spend at least a year in a juvenile detention facility sends an important message that people regardless of social status can be held accountable for committing sexual violence.
• The guilty verdict is a good, major step—but as Maya Dusenberry points out, rapists are created, not born, and the culture that allows rapists to continue being created is alive and well. [Feministing]
• Survivors of military sexual assault testified this week in a Senate hearing to advocate for outside review of cases. Among the strongest voices for a chance in policy was that of New York senator Kristen Gillibrand, who told lawyers for the Defense Department, "I appreciate the work you're doing, but it's not enough." [L.A. Times, N.Y. Daily News]
• The Steubenville rape trial continues, with key evidence in the form of damning text messages and, today, testimony from eyewitnesses who took photographs and later erased them. [Huffington Post]
• Meet the new pope, same as the old pope—especially when it comes to LGBT rights. Salon has a roundup of Pope Francis's greatest hits on the subject, and by "hits" we mean "terrible, awful, heartwrenchingly bigoted statements SHUT UP MAN UGGHHH STOP TALKING." [Salon]
The Americans, a new FX Network spy show developed by ex-CIA agent Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, illustrates the unique physical and psychological dangers that threaten women in espionage, the military, and law enforcement. In addition to the expected danger incurred in shoot-outs and international arms deals, the show's lead female character deals with the very real threat of rape.
On the show, as in real life, institutional sexism allows sexual assaults to persist the military. The Americans shows that unfortunately, for women, being in sexually hostile situations has for too long been a part of the job.