The culture we live in shapes how we view issues like sex- and gender-based violence. Cultural norms can perpetuate myths about what violence is, who perpetrates it, and how we respond.

Rape culture is a term used to describe the various ways sexual violence is normalized, condoned, excused, and encouraged by prevailing social practices, attitudes, and behaviors. Examples include:

  • Seeing gender roles as rigid and unchanging. We often see this play out in popular music and movies. Women are often treated like sexual objects, and men are often portrayed as dominant and aggressive.
  • Refusing to believe victims of sexual violence when they come forward
  • Excusing and minimizing men’s violence toward women – and other men – with words like, “boys will be boys”

Because we’re constantly surrounded by these ideas, they can influence our views in ways we may not even realize. But there are small, manageable things everyone can do to help reduce the effects of rape culture.

Examine the media you consume. This doesn’t mean avoiding movies or TV shows that normalize violence (though that is an option). This simply means you can be more aware of the messages they send and think about how they contribute to a culture that supports violence.

Stay informed. Learn more about cultural norms surrounding rape culture by watching documentaries. Start with Miss Representation, a documentary about how women are represented in media. Another good one is The Mask You Live In, which talks about how boys and men navigate a culture with narrow views on masculinity.

Speak your mind. If someone makes a comment that makes you feel uncomfortable or concerned, you have options for responding to that person.

Support victims and survivors. If someone tells you they were sexually assaulted, believe them and let them know they have options.

Small actions make a difference. Sometimes issues like this seem overwhelming, but remember: No one has to do everything, but everyone can do something.

To learn more, request a presentation for your student group on the topic of rape culture.