As I scrolled through the morning news, I noticed that a new Miss USA had been crowned last night. Curious, I clicked the link to read more about Nia Sanchez, the winner of the 2014 title. I was happy to see that the winner was a minority and that she was was a tae kwondo fourth-degree black belt. However, I found her position on sexual assault very troubling and evident of the rape culture that pervades our society.
As a solution to campus rape, Miss USA suggested that women should learn to defend themselves. This implies that women get raped because they’re weak and that they get assaulted because they “failed” in a sense. The idea that you can solve rape through self defense shifts the responsibility onto the victim. It asserts that instead of teaching people not to be criminals, we should teach the target that it’s their job not to get raped.
Miss USA, when you told millions of young women across the country that they need to “take it upon themselves” to solve the problem, you were promoting the rape culture. You’re teaching little girls that it’s their job to prevent a crime they have no control over. You’re teaching the victim that the reason they were assaulted was because they couldn’t defend themselves, that they weren’t “enough.”
We don’t solve rape by “fixing” women. We solve rape by teaching people not to be rapists. I’m tired of being told that my wardrobe will “cause” rape. I’m tired of being told that my sex organs will “cause” rape. I’m tired of being told that my femininity will “cause” rape. Only rapists can “cause” rape.
It’s never the victim’s fault. Promoting self defense just shows how inherently backwards our country is when dealing with this problem. We should be promoting basic human respect for one another instead of making the victim responsible for the crime.
That being said, it’s time to stop assuming that only women get raped. Many rape victims are actually male, but because society has branded rape a man-on-woman crime, many men feel too ashamed to come forward. They too, feel that they have “failed” and that their rape is a result of their “weakness” or inability to defend themselves. And so we push the problem even further under the rug.
There’s nothing wrong with making people stronger and empowering them. In fact, that should be encouraged. But when we teach victims to solve a crime of which they are not the perpetrator, we’re participating in victim blaming. And that, Miss USA, is the cornerstone of rape culture.