According to the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, rape culture is an environment in which rape and sexual violence is prevalent, normalized and excused in popular media and culture. 

The discussion of rape culture goes beyond the crime of rape, though. The focus shifts to examining a culture that promotes sexual violence, according to a release from Catholic Charities Phoenix House.

Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, resulting in about 207,754 victims of sexual assault each year, the release said.

Rape culture is victim blaming. It is the accepted idea that a woman who was sexually assaulted was “asking for it” when she was sexually assaulted. It is telling a woman that her clothing, makeup, eye contact, shoes, jewelry or road she took home that night was to blame for her sexual assault.

Rape culture is telling women that they must stop drinking alcohol in order to end sexual assault.  It speaks to potential victims teaching, “Don’t get raped,” rather than teaching, “Don’t rape.” 

Rape culture is the idea that sexual violence and sexual coercion is so normalized in society that people believe rape is inevitable. It is a culture in which popular media promotes sexual assault, the release said.

For instance, a song that demeans women and promotes sexual assault with lyrics like, “I know you want it” – “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke – was the top-selling single of 2013 with over 1.36 million copies sold.

Rape culture is the idea that women are just sexual objects, displayed with over-sexualized images made for sexual pleasure.

So what is it about sexual assault that compels people to look for a reason to blame victims, to conclude victims brought it upon themselves? Much of society continues to believe the myth that if victims avoid certain behaviors, sexual assault won’t happen.

Here are some common myths about rape:

• Myth: Women often make false reports of rape.

Fact: The truth is that only 2-8 percent of rape reports are considered false. Additionally, a false report does not mean the survivor lied. It could be a recanted story, an unprosecuted case, or a withdrawn case. It could also be dismissed for lack of evidence.

• Myth: Rape cannot happen in a marriage.

Fact: The idea that rape does not happen in marriage suggest that intimate partner relationships allow unwanted sex. Iowa has state law prohibiting marital rape and it is considered a crime.

• Myth: Rape is usually a violent crime.

Fact: Rape can be a violent act and many rapists carry weapons and threaten the victim with violence or death. However, rape and sexual assault aren’t always violent. Children that are victims of sexual assault are often enticed, and there is no violence present.

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• Myth: If a person doesn’t “fight back” she or he wasn’t really raped.

Fact: Rape is potentially life-threatening. Whatever a person does to survive the assault is the appropriate action. It is normal to have very different reactions when being sexual assaulted. Common reactions to sexual assault are fight, flight,or freeze. Our body protects us if we are in a life threatening situation and not fighting back does not suggest there was consent.

• Myth: She wouldn’t have been raped if she wasn’t dressed that way.

Fact: It doesn’t matter what someone is wearing, where they are at or even how much they have had to drink. No one deserves to be raped.

• Myth: Rape happens at night, in dark allies and by strangers.

Fact: Rape can and does occur anytime and anyplace. Most rapes happen during the day and often occur in the victim’s own home. By some estimates, over 70 percent of rape victims know their attackers. The rapist may be a relative, friend, co-worker, date or other acquaintance. Research shows that 90-95 percent of children who are victims of sexual assault know their perpetrator.

• Myth: Men can’t be raped.

Fact: The truth is 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.

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