Rape is when a person intentionally penetrates another person’s vagina, anus, or mouth with a penis, without the consent of the other person. Assault by penetration is the same definition as rape but also involves penetration with an object with any part of the body without the person’s consent. The overall definition of sexual assault involves violence, which causes physical injury or leave visible marks (Metropoltian Police, 2020).
Rape culture is a term or concept used to define a culture in which sexual violence and rape are seen to be common and in which prevalent attitudes, practices, norms, and media normalize, tolerate, excuse, or even disregard sexual violence. Rape culture is also often used in feminist circles, and it describes a very important social conditioning that we as women experience culturally. Rape culture is spread through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s and men’s bodies and the glamorization of sexual violence. Examples of behaviours commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, treating as unimportant and sexual objectification rape. Rape myths can influence sexual scripts that affect sexual attitudes and behaviour. Sexual scripts are culturally determined displays of behaviour that enlighten influence and desire in sexual behaviour. According to an article called “The Relationship between Rape Myths and Sexual Scripts: The Social Construction of Rape”, Ryan (2011) talks about a research in which she has found on Edward and her colleagues (Edwards, Turchik, Dardis, Reynolds, & Gidycz, 2011), which talks about rape myths. For an example, a myth which tells that men cannot stop once they have started being sexually aroused. According to Ryan (2011), the study of the relationship between sexual scripts and rape myths are there to help and get a better understanding of social construction of rape and even on consensual sex.
According to the World Population Review (2020), they estimate that there is approximately 35% of women worldwide who have experienced some sort of sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime. There are a few countries that have data available on rape cases and from those data, less than 40% of women who experience sexual violence actually seek help and less than 10% of women seek help from the law. According to UN Women (2019), there are evidence that shows that women who have experienced not only physical but sexual violence, are reported to have had acquiring HIV and abortion compared to women who have no been physically or sexually abused. Also, studies have shown (UN Women, 2019) that up to 70% of women who have experienced physical and/or sexual violence, are usually from an intimate partner. World Health Organisation (2012) has stated that lifetime prevalence of sexual partners that have been reported by women, from the age of 15 to 49 years old ranged from 6% from Japan to 59% to Ethiopia (Figure 1). All sites and organisations go with statistics that they are able to collect from women who report the crime, but there are many more rapes happening on a daily basis but are not being reported, for many reasons. So, it makes it harder to know how many rapes are actually happening around the world or in a specific country, as there are many unreported cases that we are unaware of. In this essay, I will talk about 3 countries who are very difference on their approach to rape and what each country has to offer for rape survivors and their beliefs on this matter.
The UK is the first country that was selected as they offer therapy to victims of rape and survivors of sexual violence. Shocking research from Statista (2019) has shown a huge increase of recorded rapes from year 2002/03 to 2018/19 in England and Wales. This statistic shows that there were 12.3 thousand reports in 2002/03 and has increased dramatically in 2016/17 to 41.62 thousand. Statistics still show an increase in year 2018/19 with 58.66 thousand rape offences recorded by the police, bearing in mind that there are a lot of reports not being reported and documented. A research website called Rape Crisis (2020) states that in the year of 2017, the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) have estimated that there are around 20% of women and 4% of men who have experienced sexual assault from the age of 16. This is then equivalent to 3.4 million females and over 631,000 male victims alone in England and Wales. In the UK we offer a government-funded medical and health care services, where people who live in the UK are able to use without paying for the full cost of the service, this is called the NHS. NHS offers SARC which stands for Sexual Assault Referral Centres. This centre offers medical, emotional, and practical support. SARC has highly trained social workers, nurses and doctors who are able to assist victims of rape or sexual assault. SARC arranges victims to attend medical care and if they desire a forensic examination. SARC is not only for people who have reported the assault to the police, it is for any victim who want medical treatment to prevent them from STIs and pregnancy. Victims are giving an option weather they want to report it or not, but they are highly advised to do so and if they chose to report it, SARC arranges an formal talk with a trained police officer who will explain what is involved. There are also trained advisors in SARC and other organisations such as ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advisors) who are able to access other support services that the victim needs. ISVA will also support the victims through the criminal justice system if they decide to proceed to report the assault. The UK are one of the main countries that offer support for rape victims for females, males, and children. There are many organisations that support the cause and are able to help and lend a helping hand. Organisations such as The Survivors Trust, Safeline, NSPCC, Survivors UK – Male rape and sexual abuse. All these amazing organisations offer support whether it is counselling, therapies or even medical, they are there for every victim. Many centres offer many different types of therapies, this could be group work, artwork, or bodywork. Counselling is a type of talk therapy that many victims feel that has helped the most, but everyone is different. Counselling involves a trained specialist therapist to help you and listen to you in confidential.
The second country that was chosen is China. According to a research report from an author called Tsun-Yun Luo (2000), he conducted interviews with 35 female rape survivors in Taiwan to analyse their self-reported traumatic experience in comparison to the cultural meaning of rape in Chinese society. Tsun-Yun Luo (2000) identifies many different types of trauma within the interviewed rape survivors. In the research report (2000) it states that one of the main issues of concern in Taiwan is personal safety, as rape is one of the crimes that is feared the most among Chinese woman. This research believes rape trauma has immersed in the cultural construction of rape and therefore demonstrates in the psychological dynamics of individuals rape survivors.
The main theme of rape trauma among Chinese rape survivors are lot like postrape traumatic symptoms, such as fear or anxiety, depression, disturbed social relationships, self-blame, and loss of self-esteem. However, there are many rape trauma themes that have not been reported. Chinese rape victims may attract attention in experiencing sexual shame over loss of virginity (although many women who are very religious find this as a huge issue), guilt about devaluing family honour, victims feeling mocked and rape induced marriage proposals. Overemphasizing on the sexual part of rape has often enhanced rape trauma in several ways for Chinese rape victims. Chinese women who were interviewed in this research were often traumatized by repeated sexual assaults by the same aggressor as a result of their hopeless efforts to save their ‘social face’ as well as their families honour. The rape induced marriage contemplation observed by this research seems to strengthen the cultural importance on the sexual aspect of rape. However, rape was recognised, between the aggressors proposing marriage to their victims, as a helpful technique to process the sexual virtue of, and as a guide to marriage with the desired woman. Chinese women who were interviewed actually considered rape induced marriage proposals, as they believed it was a helpful process to minimize the traumatic effects of rape and to be able to be ‘acceptable’ in the marriage market. The cultural preparation of rape induced marriage, is strengthening the cultural obsession for female virtue and the social importance on sexual involvement of rape, may function to aggravate the resulting trauma between the survivors who refused to obey with the unconventional but evidently socially approved arrangement in Taiwan. This is a very traumatic experience for the rape survivors as they do not receive any social support because they are seen as less valuable, as their virginity was stolen from them.
And lastly, I will be talking about a research called ‘’Towards a cultural definition of rape: Dilemmas in dealing with rape victims in Palestinian society’’ by Shalhoub-Kevorkian (1999). Shalhoub-Kevorkian (1999) speaks about the path in which needs to be maintain in order to manage with the hardship and dilemmas raised in this case study, this must take into account the need to examine patriarchal reaction to the crime of rape across sociocultural and political lenses. In this research there are two main topics that stood out, firstly women and sexuality in the Arab world. In the Arab culture, sexuality is a private matter that must not be disclosed to anyone, especially the public and especially if you are a female. That is why females are kept sacred until marriage, otherwise they are seen as an obstacle to themselves and threat to their family’s reputation and honour which is something that us no dealt with lightly. This approach is compound by the low-ranking status of woman in Arab society. In the private realm, this has affected their role within a family that is traditional ex-tended, patriarchal, and hierarchical, encouraging endogamy (marriage between relatives) and allowing for polygamy (practice or custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time). This patriarchal has given women a substandard status, to a point where birth of males is preferred than females. The identity of the Arab family also affects the woman’s status in the political and social domain. The family is contemplated as a social agreement that is the center of economic and social activities, built on the foundation of support and devotion in a hierarchy formed by age and sex. Many Arab women are marked as men’s property, as they believe that women need protection as they are seen weak and fragile which then leads to men having further power and control over women. In Arab culture norms, honour and codes are way more important than any measure of the individual woman’s moral equality: it replicates upon the entire family and its commitment to the community. One of the society highlights are to ensure responsibility to shield woman and protect family honour, but once this honour has been violated even though they are the victim, they are forced to pay the ultimate price and this could mean many things, but for Arab culture this is done by either marrying the rapist or be killed. Even though this is discrimination of woman, due to this action people have now feared to discuss any abuse, whether it is societal or sexual. Palestinian women faced the same brutal patriarchal forces stated above, affecting the social approach and definition of their role in society. In Spite Of changes in women’s status and their role in both Arab world and Palestinian society specifically, women are still regarded as a culturally and politically delicate issue, and societal views of them remain ambiguous, particularly with respect to their sexuality. This study originates from the clinical involvement of the author who is working with Palestinian rape survivors living in the Israeli occupied territories of the west bank.