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Concepts to Further Understanding

Gender

  • When thinking about identity and sexual violence, it is important to understand that gender identity is not the same as biological sex. Gender is a spectrum, and individuals can choose to identify in endless ways. Nonetheless, people are categorized by those around them, sometimes in terms that are at odds with how they see themselves. People who identify as "cis-gender"—those whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth—may experience this less as a problem. Transgender individuals are often subjugated through intentional misidentification, even being described as "it." This mis-gendering and un-gendering is closely linked with heteronormativity—the assertion that only a male gender and a female gender exist.

 

Heteronormativity

  • Heteronormativity is the normative claim recognizing only two genders: male and female. This restrictive perspective asserts that people only fall into either of those categories and that relationships—as well as sex—only occur between cis-gendered men and women.

 

Risk

  • When considering risk in the context of sexual and gendered violence, it is important to acknowledge that it is not the survivor's duty to eliminate risk. Therefore, it is not the survivor's responsibility to change their behavior; their behavior is not the problem.
  • We can reduce risk through increased awareness of sexual violence, by educating ourselves and others about healthy sexual practices like affirmative consent, and by being accountable for our actions in relation to sex and consent.

 

Rape Culture

  • A rape culture encourages, condones, or ignores sexual aggression and gendered violence. Many people believe that in the West today we live in a culture of violence that, when expressed in relation to sex and gender, manifests as rape culture. Because we live in a culture where sexual assault and discrimination is excused, brushed off, or ignored, survivors of sexual violence are often blamed for their abuse.
  • It is important to remember that rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone: men or women (cis-gender or trans) as well as those who are gender queer or gender nonconforming. Sex workers can be rape victims. Someone can be raped or assaulted regardless of their race or socioeconomic status, their sexual orientation, the clothing and makeup they are wearing, their sexual past, or their relationship to the perpetrator. No one is ever "asking for it."
  • It is important to remember that not all perpetrators are masked men hiding in bushes. Although rape can be perpetrated by a stranger, it is far more common for a survivor to know the person who assaulted them. This is commonly referred to as "acquaintance rape." The Rape, Assault, and Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that 73 percent of all sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.

 

Survivor Blaming and Slut Shaming

  • Rape culture characterizes assault as a natural consequence of provocation. This flawed perspective perpetuates the myth that sexual violence is the survivor's fault and is expressed in behavior as "survivor blaming." One of the most common forms of survivor blaming is known as "slut shaming," which is characterized by comments such as "they deserved it or were asking for it because they were…"
    • walking around late at night
    • in a relationship with their rapist
    • not fighting back
    • alone
    • drinking alcohol
    • making eye contact with an attacker
    • The individual's self-presentation - clothing and make up - and sexual history are often used to explain and excuse assault.

 

Hypermasculinity and Violence

  • Hypermasculinity is an exaggeration of stereotypical male behavior emphasizing physical strength and aggression. Hypermasculinity is often a factor in acts of gender-related and sexual violence. Research has found that hypermasculinity is associated with sexual and physical aggression, particularly towards women and feminine people.

 

Intersectionality

  • The notion of intersectionality recognizes how power in society stems from multiple and interconnected gender, class, and race-based subordination. Rather than a "single-axis" framework in which race, gender, class, and ability are treated as mutually exclusive categories of experience, intersectionality takes into account the overlap in identities that make discrimination and suppression more acute.
  • Intersectionality is important when thinking about sexual violence. It shapes the survivor’s experience of violence and their response (and often the response of those in positions of power), and because it represents a factor of risk of sexual violence. That is, some marginalized identities increase an individual's risk of assault, and the more of those identities a person carries, the greater the risk of sexual violence.

 

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