The rape culture we live in
“It’s like every guys worst nightmare, to get accused for rape!”
– Oh, you know what’s every girl’s worst nightmare?
From the movie Promising Young woman
It’s awful, to say the least. It’s awful to state that we live in a rape culture: in a culture where rape is not considered too much of a human rights issue, where rapists lives are preferred over the lives of victims, where victim shaming is more common than not and where victims need to undergo excessive suffering just to prove their experience was real. It’s awful that rape is not considered as serious a crime as it is nor all the disruption it causes to the rest of the lives of its victims. It’s awful that reporting sexual assault often results in disbelieving.
I saw the movie Promising Young Woman which accurately addresses the issue and culture of victim shaming. And how we human beings are so damn subjective in our discernment. We might read about a news of a rape and think to ourselves, “ohh but she must have been a bit provocative, tipsy, giving the signal, I wonder how she was dressed, wait what was she doing walking alone at night at that time, why would she have drank so much…” etc. All this, until it happens to our friend. Our sister. Our daughter. Would you use any of these excuses to undermine the victim’s right to self-determination? For their right to their own body?
Intermarriage rape came into existence as a concept and a real thing to be considered a crime by law in Finland in 1994. There are still people who are not sure if this is something that exists: if you are married, you should always be available for sex, right? Wrong. Your body is still your own. You have a right to self-determination. And being raped by someone you love, is not a minor issue. It’s an extreme violation of trust, amongst others. There are still plenty of countries that do not consider rape to exist inside a marriage. But marriage does not take away your right to your own body. Nothing takes away your right to your own body. It is your human right.
Towards consent – only yes means yes (to be valid by law, in 2023)
Since there still seems to be plenty of misunderstandings, there’s finally a law around consent in Finland: ONLY YES MEANS YES! This means: no means no; silence means no; being passed out means no; being frozen to a near death experience means no; being unconscious means no. You would think our human brain has come to grasp these kinds of subtleties but since we still live in a patriarchal oppressive world.. it ain’t the case. Having sex with someone unconscious was not considered a rape until 2011. Is this the fucking world we live in?!
To actually get a consent is important for obvious reasons, but also due to the fact that even up to 70 % of the victims in a situation of a rape, freeze: they are unable to speak or move. This kind of behavior should not encourage anyone to continue their sexual actions, but since this is not often case, it seems absolutely necessary to have the law on consent. Thinking about all this data that we have, I find it incredible it will only come into being in Finland in 2023.
La culpa no era mía / The blame is not on me
It’s also a human right to be seen as we are. Freedom of expression. It’s a human right to dress as we want to, look like we want to, wear what we are comfortable wearing without the risk of getting raped or getting accused of being a victim. RAPE IS ALWAYS THE RAPISTS FAULT.
Below I’m reciting a part of the Chilean feminist hymn that made it across the globe in various protests against the violence against women. This was translated to various languages, also Finnish. The lyrics are very powerful and they criticize the patriarchy, the state and the police for the lack of support in the cases of rape.
Y la culpa no era mía
Ni donde estaba
Ni como vestía
El Violador ERES TÚ
And the blame is not on me
Nor where I was
Or what I was wearing
The rapist is YOU
I have never suffered from serious assaults and in the time of #metoo I even considered that I had never experienced any harassment. But I have. I just didn’t recognize it was harassment. I guess we are so used to it, it doesn’t even ring a bell. These following cases proved though how easily the responsibility is transferred to the victim – either by others or by the victim themselves. And this has got to stop.
So I was in Sweden in 2016 and gave a homeless man all the crowns I still had left. He came to talk to me after, suggesting we could have sex. I denied firmly but he kept on insisting. I changed my place and asked a couple of men if I could sit next to them for a while. I told them what happened and the first comment I got “you shouldn’t just smile to everybody”. Really? Victim shaming? In my 25 years of life of smiling, I had never come across this kind of situation before. And now it was to blame it on my smile? No, sir. I won’t stop smiling and it WASN’T MY FAULT.
In 2021, after a twerk class, a stranger came up to me on the street and kissed me straight on the mouth. Even though he said out loud “I’m gonna kiss you now” I was unable to stop him. When I told about this forward, I made sure to clear it out that I was not in my twerking outfit. Yet even if I had been, it had NOT BEEN MY FAULT.
The powerful statement of a victim
The following quotes are from a statement of a 23-year old girl who was sexually assaulted by a promising young athlete, Brock Turner in 2015. All the media and judicial attention seemed to be in Brock’s career and proving him not guilty.
“On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately. But for now, I should go home and get back to my normal life.”
In this case, the judge decided to put all efforts to spare the life of a young male athlete with a promising career ahead of him – instead of the 23 year old woman. This is what it means to prefer the life of the criminal over the victim: oh my, we cannot ruin this person’s life, he has so much stored up for him. Well, Mr. Judge: you did not ruin his life. Dear Victim: you did not ruin that person’s life. The criminal, the rapist, did it to themselves: they ruined their own life. And on top of that, they ruined many other lives too – not least the victim’s.
At the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming.
– – –
I was not only told that I was assaulted, I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted. And that distorted me, damaged me, almost broke me. It is the saddest type of confusion to be told I was assaulted and nearly raped, blatantly out in the open, but we don’t know if it counts as assault yet. I had to fight for an entire year to make it clear that there was something wrong with this situation.
This is the world we still live in. How could you say it’s not a rape culture?
In the Finnish Magazine, Alibi, earlier this year (2022) an article named “this is how to prevent yourself from getting raped” attracted a lot of media attention. In the article, a police officer advises women not to drink and learn to run fast, amongst other things. Really? Police officer advices women to prevent rape by the way they act. How about advising rapists not to rape? That’s impossible, one could argue. But is it though? Is it impossible for a human being to control their impulses and act according to law? Isn’t that how we live day by day? Many women also opposed the negative attention – why the police could not give tips on how to prevent being raped? Well, first of all these tips are not life changing hacks, they are useless, because we already know them. Second of all, possible victims are not supposed to prevent the rape from happening. RAPE should be prevented of happening in the first place. And that is the rapist’s responsibility.
Lastly you said, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin a life. Ruin a life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me.
– – –
I showed up an hour late to work every morning, excused myself to cry in the stairwells, I can tell you all the best places in that building to cry where no one can hear you, the pain became so bad that I had to tell my boss I was leaving, I needed time because continuing day to day was not possible. I used my savings to go as far away as I could possibly be.
Again, one night of drinking did not ruin your life. You did. And not only did you ruin yours. There were so many lives that changed forever. It’s the victim and so many people around them – it’s you and so many people around you.
All the crying, the hurting you have imposed on me, I can take it. But when I see my younger sister hurting, when she is unable to keep up in school, when she is deprived of joy, when she is not sleeping, when she is crying so hard on the phone she is barely breathing, telling me over and over she is sorry for leaving me alone that night, sorry sorry sorry, when she feels more guilt than you, then I do not forgive you.
Patriarchy doesn’t mean men are the enemies. Patriarchy means everyone’s a victim – including men. But it also means that certain lives are valued over others. However, it’s also women who are maintaining the rape culture: by undermining the victims voice, victim-shaming, not believing, supporting the rapist, accusing men’s nature, valuing one life over the other. Assault is not an accident. Rape is not an accident.
The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative.
In Finland, only 17 % of the reports of an offence regarding rape result in verdict. Until there are serious consequences for raping someone and an actual effort to educate the whole society around us, we continue to live in a rape culture. It sounds like the most awful place to live in, really. I’m sure it’s a culture none of us want to live in.
Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else.
It would have. And this is so sad. Where are we safe? Even if we never drank again, wore sneakers to be able to run fast, covered our beautiful bodies, wiped the smiles off our faces… There is still intramarriage rape, amongst others. And Finland is one of the most violent countries in the EU. And most violence happens at home.
Rape is a serious offence and while it seems o b v i o u s, it also seems like not everyone gets it. And if not everyone gets it, there are faults in the culture we live in. Serious faults.
Strength for everyone battling with the trauma caused by assault or rape. And Y E S to consent. For anyone criticizing the law on consent, seriously: it’s not difficult to make sure the other person actually wants to have sex with you. It’s really not. And simple as that – if in doubt, just S T O P. Fucking STOP. So not a single person more needs to feel these feelings in their bones:
It stays with me, it’s part of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life.