Powell, A. and N. Henry. 2014. Framing Sexual Violence Prevention: What Does It Mean to Challenge a Rape Culture?

Powell, Anastasia and Nicola Henry. 2014. “Framing Sexual Violence Prevention: What Does It Mean to Challenge a Rape Culture?” In Preventing Sexual Violence: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Overcoming a Rape Culture, edited by Nicola Henry and Anastasia Powell. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Pp. 1-21.

WHO (World Health Organization) 2013 – 35% of women worldwide reported experiencing sexual or physical violence by a partner; despite increasing exposure of men’s experiences of violence, women continue to be the majority of survivors, with men acting mainly (but not only) as perpetrators. Many existing programs that address sexual and physical violence fail to address structural/cultural “scaffolding” of men’s violence toward women (Garvey 2005). Rape culture as the social, cultural, and structural discourses where sexual violence is minimized, accepted, trivialized, and tolerated (Buchwald et al 1993 and 2005). Sexual violence as contextualized with a history of taboo, silence, and denial (Carmody 2009), as well as a difficulty to “detect, deter, police, or punish” (2 here 11). Representations of sexual violence in media, literary representations seem to continue to blame victims, and demonstrate the lack of consequence for perpetrators (Suarez and Gadalla 2010) – this helps to maintain and manifest sexism, and work to reinstitutionalize the normalcy and structure of institutions that work to “prevent” (albeit failing) rape. Marcus 1992 reports that the recalcitrance of rape culture relies on the assumption that sexual violence is inevitable, and prevention/avoidance/defense is key. Instead, more recent action offer “primary prevention” – changing culture of sexual violence by addressing masculinity, sexuality, gender, and violence.

Growth in awareness and policy reforms – community programs, school and organization curriculums and trainings, posters, mainstream media coverage, activist programs (SlutWalk, Reclaim the Night), online policy and program petitions — connect the idea that gender inequality and sexual violence help underpin and scaffold each other. Helps to challenge dominant narratives that make rape naturalized, including “prevention” techniques as well as deference that fulfills traditional notions of femininity (Marcus 1992) – here, practicing ‘rape avoidance’, instead of questioning naturalized sexual dispositions that posit men as aggressors, women as passive sexual beings. Mardorossian 2002: “making women’s behavior and identity the site of rape prevention only mirrors the dominant culture’s proclivity to see rape as a women’s problem, both in the sense of a problem should solve and one that they caused” (755, here 6).

Katz et al 2011 – calls on men’s ‘bystanding’ as a silent ‘support’ of rape and sexual violence – by not challenging these norms, men are offered power and dominance; related to notions of masculinity built around homophobia, violence, and sexism. However, Mardorossian 2002 notes that both men AND women become bystanders in not challenging cultures of sexual violence.

Tactics of Resisting Sexual Violence – “risk management, rape avoidance” – flawed because even those who follow the ‘rules’ can be victimized, and most incidents are perpetrated in intimate areas – victims’ or perpetrators’ homes (Keel 2005), also renders the perpetrator ‘invisible’, as well as focuses on aspects of ‘communication’ – could instances of rape, then, become excused through ‘miscommunication?’

Community health models that focus on primary interventions (demographic education, address), secondary education – in populations where sexual violence may be more prevalent, and tertiary education – as perpetrators and survivors work to prevent reoccurrence.

CITES:

Carmody, M. 2009. “Conceptualising the Prevention of Sexual Assault and the Role of Education.” ACSSA Issues Paper 10. Melbourne, VIC: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Gavey, N. 2005. Just Sex?: The Cultural Scaffolding of Rape. London: Routledge.

Katz, J., H.A. Heisterkamp, and W.M. Fleming. 2011. “The Social Justice Roots of the Mentors in Violence Prevention Model and Its Application in a High School Setting.” Violence Against Women 17: 684-702.

Keel, M. 2005. “Prevention of Sexual Assault.” ACSSA Aware Newsletter 8:16-24.

Marcus, S. 1992. “Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: A Theory and Politics on Rape Prevention,” in J. Butler and J. Scott (eds) Feminists Theorize the Political. New York: Routledge.

Mardorossian, C.M. 2002. “Toward a New Feminist Theory of Rape.” Signs 27(3):743-775.

Suarez, E. and T.M. Gadalla. 2010. “Stop Blaming the Victim: A Meta-analysis on Rape Myths.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 25(11): 2010-2035.

World Health Organization (WHO). 2013. Global and Regional Estimates of Violence Against Women: Prevalence and Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-partner Sexual Violence. Geneva: World Health Organization.

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