“Stop India’s Rape Culture!” was the caption in The Daily Californian on Feb. 5, 2013. The article described the brutal rape of a 23-year-old student by six men in Delhi, India, on Dec. 16, 2012.
I hadn’t heard the phrase “rape culture” before. I remember feeling relieved that I live in a country that could not be described in that way. But then I began reading and researching and I discovered that according to most feminists and many sociologists, rape culture is used to describe Canada.
Rape culture is a term used to describe a society in which rape and sexual violence have become or are becoming commonplace.
Rape culture exists/grows where prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, entertainment and media increasingly normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape.
Those who are addressing this phenomenon aren’t suggesting that every Canadian is in approval of or engaged in such behavior. What they are saying is that there are observable facts and events in our society that indicate that the trends are not only existent, but escalating.
An incident, in Atlantic Canada in 2011, involving 15-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, is one that is considered by many as a clear example of rape culture.
One headline boldly stated, “Rape Culture Claims Another Victim: Teen Ends Life After Photo Of Her Alleged Gang Rape Goes Viral.”
Rehtaeh went with her friend to a house party where she was reportedly raped by four teenage boys. Someone took a photograph of Rehtaeh being raped and it was posted and widely distributed online. Subsequently, Rehtaeh received a barrage of texts saying, “Will you have sex with me?” and “You’re such a slut.” An investigation ensued, but no one was ever arrested or charged.
Not surprisingly, Rehtaeh struggled with anger, rejection, depression and suicidal thoughts resulting at one point in her being hospitalized. She moved to a different city to avoid harassment. Finally, on April 4, 2013, at her parents’ home in Dartmouth, she attempted suicide by hanging. Three days later, her life support was switched off and she died at 17 years of age.
“Stop Canada’s Rape Culture!” Too dramatic? Inaccurate? I’m not sure … I am sure of this however. The lines between right and wrong in our culture are less distinct all the time. And moral declension along with the erosion of a sensitivity of conscience, individually and collectively, is all too evident.
Decades ago, Omar Bradley said, “The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and moral…infants.”
More importantly, God said, “Woe to those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20).
Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.
— FAITH & REFLECTION