Some cities in North Dakota are experiencing an explosion in their population of single men due to well paying jobs in the oil and gas industries. These unmarried men come from all over to work in the oil fields. In these towns though, there aren’t many single women, and that’s created a problem. The issue discussed in a New York Times article today sheds light on the increasing amount of harassment, domestic, and sexual violence women are subjected to in these towns.
Is this an isolated incident?
Higher incidences of rape are also reported amongst Native Americans. One in three Native American women are raped. This is double that of the national average.
Reporting rape is discouraged by tribal police, and many hospitals lack the staff and equipment to successfully complete rape kits. Tribal police are also prohibited from prosecuting individuals who do not have ties to the tribe. Amnesty International reports that among the American Indian who are raped, 86% are raped by non-Native men.
There are some who will read these read stories and say, see, men are just biological creatures powered by a willful determination to spread their seed; we must place the blame on evolution. The belief that rape is somehow natural is a sentiment we have seen expressed before and debunked before.
Professor Joanna Bourke wrote the book Rape: A History from 1860 to the Present, through her extensive research she found that men are not born rapists, that there is nothing natural, or inevitable about it. "Whatever period you look at, the rapist tries to adapt the social mores of the day to explain away their abusive behavior.” She also says, “Rapists are rationalized as victims of forces beyond their control — including their own penises.”
The idea that men rape due to biology also completely ignores the fact that women can also be the aggressors. It offers an all too convenient explanation for something complex and still incredibly misunderstood. In discussions of rape, we continue to hear cisgendered males trying to redefine what rape is, to redefine who can be raped.
We see these increased rates of rape and violence we see against women in North Dakota because rapists see it as an opportunity to get away with a crime. It is the same reason why men go into American Indian reservations to rape: the opportunity to rape presents itself with a low chance of being caught. We know that the likelihood of rape increases as individuals believe they are less likely to be caught. It’s not biological impulse. Rape is not an accident.
In the Times article, there is a story about a woman’s parents who encourage her to not wear skirts so as to not “shine like a flower in the middle of a desert.”
This puts the responsibility of not getting attacked, once again, back on the female. The responsibility should be on would-be-offenders. Campaigns against telling people to not rape do work. These ads posted all over Edmonton brought the incidences of rape down by 10%. The U.S. based Men Can Stop Rape encourages men to take a stand, and creates a home for diverse masculinities. The Men Can Stop Rape campaign realizes that masculinity is not one-dimensional, as men are more than their societal portrayals.
Rapists aren’t confused, and everyone needs to stop making excuses for them, to stop buying into rape myths. The prevalence of rape myths affect our ability to adequately and appropriately deal with sexual violence. The more we buy into rape myths, the more restrictive our idea of rape becomes.