Unknown numbers of boys have been victimized by a rape culture that’s simply taken for granted.
A recent article in the LA Times has shown that the Boy Scouts failed to report hundreds of suspected child molesters and instead urged them to quietly resign and even helped to cover up their tracks. In 400 cases, the Boy Scouts did not record reporting the allegations to the police; in more than a hundred cases officials condoned or aided suspects in covering up abuse.
This is what a rape culture looks like.
Many people are skeptical about the existence of a rape culture. “I don’t condone rape,” they say, “everyone I know agrees that rape is a horrible crime, and I don’t know anyone who’s raped anyone. I think that’s something that hysterical feminists are making up in order to pretend to be victims.”
But if you look at this… it’s a rape culture.
Rape culture is predators taking advantage of vulnerable people, from teenage runaways to disabled adults to Boy Scouts, all of whom are far more likely to experience rape than the general population. If your rapist has power over you and you’re dependent on them, you’re going to be far easier to coerce into sex and far more reluctant to report, which means that rape is disproportionately perpetrated on the weakest and least powerful members of society.
Rape culture is covering up a sexual assault because the perpetrator is a “nice guy.” Many rapists are well-liked pillars of the community; after all, who are you going to believe, the victim—who is probably angry and hysterical and sobbing for no reason and in general not very credible—or your friend, who works with disabled kids and always has a smile for everyone? Besides, he’s nice, he probably just made a mistake or there was a misunderstanding or it was a false accusation, he doesn’t deserve to have his life and his reputation ruined over this.
Rape culture is refusing to allow gay Scoutmasters because of the risk of molestation. The flip side of the “he’s a nice guy, he couldn’t have raped anyone” defense is the “he’s an Other, he probably rapes people” accusation. Based on exactly no evidence, the Scouts concluded that gay men were more likely to molest children than straight men (or pedophiles that could impersonate straight men). Well, you know, gay men are scary! We don’t know what they’re up to! So while the Scouts covered up the molestation of boys, they defended a discriminatory policy to protect boys from molestation.
Rape culture is the “perversion files,” a list of people accused of molesting boys. Cliff Pervocracy, who is possibly the most consistently sensible of the bloggers I have had the pleasure to read, calls it the missing stair. The staircase is missing a stair, but it’s okay because everyone remembers to jump over it and we’ve lived with it so long we don’t even think of repairing it. The “perversion files” seem like a good measure, just like jumping over the stair, but it’s just a stopgap. The ultimate solution is not to blacklist child molesters (especially if you do it incompetently and rehire them again), it is to call the police like a sane person.
Rape culture is caring more about the reputation of the organization than the safety of people under your care. The police actually worked with the Scouts sometimes to keep news of child molesters from coming out and freaking people out about child molesters in the Scouts. Ultimately, the reason that the Scouts covered up so many rapes and sexual assaults of children is that they didn’t want to get the bad publicity that comes with having child molesters in your organization. They valued people believing that in the Scouts their children would be safe from child molesters more than they valued actually not having child molesters in the Scouts. When that statement is true of you, you’ve fucked up somewhere.
The thing is… all of these are dynamics that come up again and again, in every discussion of what it’s like to be raped. Rapists at colleges deliberately targeting drunk women who can’t fight back. Rape survivors who watch their friends side with their rapist, because she throws better parties and he’s just creating drama. The absurd fear of strange black men raping women. Friend groups that just tolerate the rapist as one of them, the same way that they tolerate the guy who picks his nose or the girl who always does the same unfunny Paris Hilton impression. The Catholic Church and Penn State. These are not unique to the Boy Scouts. They’re everywhere. And until we stop it, more and more people will be victims of rape.
Photo—Scared Teen from Shutterstock