In the United States, the act of reporting a rape is systematically problematic. Legislation and legal processes are often challenging and painful for the victim; they make a straightforward and transparent process difficult. The US needs to adjust its rape policies to support and strengthen victims to establish and maintain a safer society. This issue is paralleled in many other countries, whether it be a complex and unsupportive legal system or actual legislation protecting rape.
Three weeks ago, in the South Indian city of Hyderabad, a young woman was gang-raped and murdered by four men. The 26-year-old veterinarian was on her way home from an appointment when the men offered to help with her flat tire — a tire they had slashed just minutes before.
The incident, the most recent in a string of high-profile sexual assault cases, has sparked nationwide outrage and protests. However, the anger and passion of the Indian people doesn’t necessarily translate to their government. Supreme court lawyer, Karuna Nundy, explained that India’s reporting systems for rape are damaging and poorly designed. “It takes a particularly dogged survivor of sexual assault — almost an activist — to stay the course,” she said.
In India, the issues surrounding rape extend far beyond their deficient reporting system; India’s current laws also allow marital rape. This makes it one of more than twenty countries where marital rape remains decriminalized.
In Afghanistan, for example, there are no laws protecting rape victims, who are typically shamed for their loss of “purity.” In China, traditional culture holds that being raped is shameful and should be kept private, and their heavily-criticized rape legislation is full of loopholes that can be used to protect perpetrators.
The same can be said of Egypt, where the threat of social rejection is typically enough to prevent many women from reporting rape. Rania Hamid, from the Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, said, “Girls consider it to be quite enough that a few people know about the rape.”
Although better than some countries, the US still has a long way to go in regards to its rape reporting and support systems, as well as its rape culture. Victims are supposed to report the assault to the police and medical professionals as soon as they’re able and are typically asked to collect evidence in a “rape kit” if possible. However, as soon as a victim waits beyond the
For our country to truly become an example of how to give victims … justice, the US must begin by addressing the culture feeding misogyny and sexual assault.
recommended time frame of 72 hours, evidence becomes increasingly untrustworthy. Also, victims often face backlog in hospitals and crime labs, destruction of rape kits, and inaccessibility to kits and supportive services.
The US must improve its immediate response system to rape; rape kits must be made readily available nationwide, kit testing needs to be a priority, and policies allowing kit destruction must be replaced with policies protecting the kits for as long as necessary.
Besides, there are biases in many of the court proceedings involving sexual assault. Take, for example, the case of Brock Turner, a white Stanford student-athlete who was given an extremely lenient sentence for the three counts of sexual assault for which he was convicted.
Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, despite Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault, is also an example of biases in court. Another example is Google giving Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, a ninety million dollar exit package, even after concluding sexual assault claims made against him were credible. Whatever the situation, in the US, it’s challenging for survivors of sexual assault to experience justice.
For our country to truly become an example of how to give victims that justice, the US must begin by addressing the culture feeding misogyny and sexual assault. Education is the key to prevention as well as the key to treatment. Sexual education and rape prevention education should be a federally required and funded component of public education.
At Berkeley High School, we are fortunate to have this as a part of our education. Students are working hard to shift the culture that feeds into sexual assault and other acts of violence.
However, we still have a long way to go. It’s up to each individual to stand up and support victims following instances of sexual harassment, rape culture, or other misogynistic behavior.
To improve our legal support systems, we must begin the hard work of improving our everyday culture.
However, that won’t happen without a substantial shift in the way we treat survivors and their stories.