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RAINN Says Blame Rapists, not Rape Culture

Yeah, I know, the headline isn't quite as shocking as Slate's RAINN Attacks the Phrase Rape Culture in its Recommendations to the White House, but it is what the RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) White House Task Force actually recommended. In a letter to the White House, they urged the conversation about campus rapes to move away from talking about rape culture and more towards talking about rapists. The damning quote from the recommendations is:

In the last few years, there has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming "rape culture" for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campuses. While it is helpful to point out the systemic barriers to addressing the problem, it is important to not lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime.


Sorry, but this doesn't make me wanna take out the torches and pitchforks. They make this even more clear in the follow up paragraph (emphasis mine):

While that may seem an obvious point, it has tended to get lost in recent debates. This has led to an inclination to focus on particular segment's of the student population (e.g., athletes), particular aspect's of campus culture (e.g., the Greek system), or traits that are common in many millions of law-abiding Americans (e.g., "masculinity"), rather than on the subpopulation at fault: those who choose to commit rape. This trend has the paradoxical effect of making it harder to stop sexual violence, since it removes the focus from the individual at fault, and seemingly mitigates personalresponsibility for his or her own actions.

The statement isn't saying that rape culture doesn't exist-in fact it flat at acknowledges that rape culture is a barrier to reporting rape and getting justice for the victim. All the recommendation is saying is that the focus on rape culture can end up inadvertently reinforcing a sort of "boys will be boys" type mentality where of course frat boys will rape, because rape culture. RAINN just wants to focus the conversation on rapists back on the few men who are rapists because they don't think prevention methods targeting rape culture work:

Perhaps counter - intuitively, we recommend not focusing prevention messaging towards potential perpetrators (with one exception, described below). Importantly, research has shown that prevention efforts that focus solely on men and " redefining masculinity ," as some programs have termed it, are unlikely to be effective. As Dr. Lisak has noted, vii we can benefit from decades' of sex offender treatment work, which supports that it is all but impossible to reprogram a serial offender with a simple prevention message.


RAINN's recommendations for preventing sexual violence are pretty straightforward: bystander intervention education, risk-reduction messaging, and educating people on consent. They acknowledge that risk-reduction messaging can be seen as victim blaming:

As anyone who has worked on rape prevention knows, risk - reduction messaging is a sensitive topic. Even the most well - intentioned risk - reduction message can be misunderstood to suggest that, by not following the tips, a victim is somehow to blame for his or her own attack. Recent survivors of sexual violence are particularly sensitive to these messages, and we owe it to them to use them cautiously.

Still, they are an important part of a rape prevention program. To be very clear, RAINN in no way condones or advocates victim blaming. Sexual assault is a violent crime and those who commit these crimes are solely responsible for their actions. That said, we believe that it is important to educate members of a campus community on actions they can take to increase their personal safety. In fact, we believe it's irresponsible not to do so.


But ultimately, RAINN believes that the way to prevent rape is to go after rapists:

We believe that the most effective — the primary — way to prevent sexual violence is to use the criminal justice system to take more rapists off the streets. Stopping a rapist early in his or her career can prevent countless future rapes.


Which is why they were advocating shifting the language away from rape culture and back to rapists in the first place.

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