No matter the country, state, city, or county it is likely during ones lifespan every individual has become victim, witness, bystander, or perpetrator to sexual violence. Sexual violence can be defined briefly as a crime of aggression, power, and control in which an individual forces, coerces, or manipulates another individual to have sexual intercourse, oral intercourse, or a sexual interaction without their consent. Although these acts and definitions can indeed differ there is an underlying theme of all acts committed. By the end of this essay I will explain and expand on the sociological repercussion of sexual violence on an individual and their community, as well as emphasize the vast epidemic that is, sexual assault, rape, and harassment.
Although no sex, gender, or population is not at risk for sexual violence females are far further marginalized than men. As stated by Donna Stuart, “Violence against women, in all its forms, perpetrated by men is not a 20th century phenomenon; it has been occurring on a systematic basis for centuries. What is a new phenomenon is that violence against women is finally being heard about and placed on political and social agendas”. Despite women being the main targets of sexual violence it is apparent from this statement that the acts of violence they endured are to be ignored no longer. When sexual assault plagues one’s society, ones feelings of action taking may be ignited. As sexual assault rates alarmingly increase there is no longer any group or individual it does not effect. Sociologically we, as members of the society, would be expected to take action against such blunt forms of discrimination and blatant expressions of predatory viscous behavior.
According to Margaret Hamilton, and Jack Yee, as time progresses, greater knowledge about rape is positively associated with reduced rape propensity. The practical way of implication is that educational interventions to adolescence in the general public may be effective in decreasing the incidence of rape or assault. These findings heavily relate to the sociological theories of societal based deviance, and labeling. Without the proper educational practices members of society will be more incline to commit sexual violence as they are not deemed deviant, most often from their peers and societal surroundings one is put into a label, judged, or accepted. If one is free to move about their environment in such forms as predators without repercussion, how can a society expect them to change their behavior? Without being condemned for their audacious actions they are free to conjure new ways of violating the social normality of choosing sexual interaction.
In comparison, if these future predators are taught their actions are deemed morally, socially, and ethically wrong they are suspected to be far less likely to commit such acts. While the same is true for survivors and victims of sexual abuse, just from a differing angle. If the victim of a sexual predator feels unsafe or insecure in the act of reporting an incident, due to societal repercussion the ideas behind labeling theory will be applied. A classic example of this would be victim-blaming. Although the individual endured a vicious sex crime, he or she will commonly be blamed for the rape, harassment, or assault. The victim could expect to endure being asked if they wanted it, what they were wearing, and if they were drinking, which commonly leads to labels such as whore, or slut which the victim could eventually believe. Despite the victim in no way “asking for it” they will be damned to a societal label which was of course intentionally unprovoked, unwanted, and unnecessary.
Despite the private nature of this topic, there are endless evolutionary, behavioral and sociobiological theoretical explanations to why an individual would have an inclination toward committing sexual violence. Controversial author Randy Thornhill hypothesizes the act of rape is an evolutionary by-product of other adaptations in concern to how rape circumvents a woman ability to choose her own mate. Thornhill disagrees with the social science theory of rape, while McKibbin would completely disagree with this biological construct of rape by referring to sexual, emotional, and physical dominant aspect of sexual violence. Those who would support McKibben would believe the aggressor in a sexually violent situation was not driven to commit this act by pre-determined biological need. Instead they believe the aggressor would commit violence, rape, assault or harassment because they could not receive sexual contact from a consenting individual, they are aroused by violence, they are psychopathic, or they aim to assert dominance over their victim not only physically, but emotionally long term.
Although these theoretical frameworks heavily differ in why one might be inclined to commit heinous sexual crimes, they both closely focus on the cause of the behavior the aggressor is expressing. Despite sexual violence becoming a private, socially obscure topic, most of the research and discussion of rape is to unravel why people commit the acts, and why people become victims not about social repercussion, or social reaction. Although I earlier mentioned the act of victim blaming being an undeniable issue in regards to rape victims, the overall social reaction of rape is somewhat hard to come across because of the problematic factors that interfere with societal views on this topic.
In many cultures rape and sexual violence is expected, unpunished, and normalized. This only further encourages and empowers the sexually violent. Despite sexual violence being a mostly unaccepted, unpracticed, and unnormalized behavior the theoretical controversies that aim to disprove the problems with sex abuse, the undermining of its prevalence, and the shaming of victims and advocates continues to poison the impressional society we coincide in today. Those who practice these shaming and undermining tactics might believe in the theory that males (specifically) have an uneducable predisposition to misunderstand and misreading of a female’s sexual response. Or that males are simply designed to be the dominant partner in a sexual relationship with women, even if this relationship was unprovoked.
To believe that a woman is so intensely sexually desirable, or irresistible a man has the undeniable ability, means, and motive to either force, or coerce a woman to engage in a non-consensual sexual interaction is of course, not a new way of thinking. For centuries women have been marginalized sexually, financially, and politically. With triumphs in political standing, and financial ability, sexual repression and victimization remains.
In 2014 the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that one out of every six women in the United States will be a victim of an attempted, or completed rape. Surprisingly, this study does not include the incidences of harassment, assault, or unwanted sexual contact these numbers would of course increase if these incidences were included. Even more alarmingly the Bureau found that one in every seven victims of rape were under the age of six years old. These statistics are staggering, shocking, and sickening as the discrediting theories listed above insist the prevalence of sexual violence is not an epidemic that needs to be addressed.
In conclusion, the acts of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment require the same persecutory actions as all other heinous crimes committed. As sexual violence is committed at a higher rate than other heavily sentenced crimes, a society must speak out in order to condemn the sexual aggressor not the victim. Without the society, justice system, and media morally condemning sexual violence it is likely the behavior and social stigma will continue at the same rate it occurs now, if not more often. The societal repercussion of sexual violence effects a community as a whole, not just the individuals involved.