Model-slash-actress Kat Alano wants to end this country’s prevalent rape culture. And so should you.
Last year in October, she founded Empower.org.ph, an online platform where she encouraged healthy and honest conversations about rape. But she doesn’t want to keep the discussion within the small fraction that’s directly involved.
“We need to start talking about rape,” she says, imploring the public to join the discourse she started, “because it happens.”
How do we start, then? Well, let’s just say we need to know how it spreads first. Kat lets us in on a few ways rape culture shows up in our everyday habits.
Imagine this: A colleague comes to work, her hair disheveled and clothes unkempt. Her collars are unbuttoned, and lipstick in disarray—signs that she may have had a rough morning commute. Our first instinct usually, sadly, compels us to ask: “What happened to you? Have you been raped or something?” with matching giggles at our #fail humor.
The simplest jokes like these normalize rape, to the point of making this grave issue seem lighter than it should be.
Kat, a celebrity in her own right, believes that “we’ve created a safe haven for people to get away with bad behavior.” She slams our image-obsessed culture, alluding to the fact that she was attacked by a well-known celeb: “As long as [the accused] looks good, as long as they a very convincing lie, we’re content to look the other way.”
#3 When we applaud men for having sex, and shame women for it
We allow dudes to bed as many women as they want, while we insist women to remain chaste or pakipot about it. The macho sex machine gets patted on the back for their sexcapades, while the “exploits” are deemed dirty and tainted. Who wins? Obviously not the latter.
When we forgive men for these one-sided pursuits and slut-shame the women in this sexpedition, it’s like saying sexual conquests matter more than mutual, mature consent.
#4 When we don’t educate others properly about rape
Let’s talk about education—or the lack of it. In a country that just recently legalized sex education—we have a lot of catching up to do, as observed by Kat herself.
Did your teacher once tell you that rape doesn’t have to be violent, but can be coercive? Did your reading materials show that rape doesn’t require penetration, but can involve the external touching of genitals? Doubt it.
“We’re showing [others] how to [have sex],” Kat says, “but we’re not talking about it.”
For all our information, rape is “unlawful sexual activity” made “against the will of a person.” Now think about all the times we’ve watched forceful scenes—film, porn, or whatnot—and shrugged them off as “rough lovemaking.” Or those times people insist that rape is forcing sex on females, and all we did was stay silent.
We promote rape when we shun the victims. Believe us—and her—when we say they’re real. In case you missed it, one woman is raped every 72 minutes in this country. The survivors’ own experiences are hardly lies as much as they are publicity stints. (See: Bill Cosby’s case.)
“There are rapists not being arrested, and we say we don’t have rape culture?” Kat asks incredulously, citing later of the fact that only three percent of rape cases go to trial and end with the imprisonment of the accused.
#7 When we shame victims instead of perpetrators
Ralph Catedral, a Filipino lawyer who has represented many rape survivors in court, says that part of the reason the Philippines contributes to the small conviction rate is because “there’s still a social stigma attached to being a rape survivor.”
This stigma prevents them from testifying, and weakens the prosecution’s case—at least in the eyes of our justice system.
There are a host of other ways rape culture has its grip on our society. But before we go all vigilante, we must first strive for awareness. And that could be as simple as reflecting on how we as individuals may be participating in rape culture, and then correcting it.
Empower.org.ph is a place where you can engage in healthy conversations about sex and rape, and support survivors in the community. For more information, visit their website.