Something’s Very Wrong When Young Women Consider Sexual Violence ‘Normal’


A new study published by Sage Journals exposes some rather shocking statistics that young women today basically consider rape and sexual violence ‘normal’. The study examined why there was such a high level of incidents not being reported, and how the assaults are carried out and perceived among youth in America.

The study was conducted by Heather Hlavka from Marquette University in Wisconsin who surveyed 100 people between the ages of 13 and 17 who found there was an overwhelming amount of girls who would rather forego reporting cases of assault and standing by other girls, in favor of slut-shaming them and considering them “whores”. Wow…is this really what we have done to society and passed on to the next generation? Are these the types of attitudes we are teaching our youth?

“Many regard harassment and violence to be a normal part of everyday life in middle and high schools,” Heather states in the study.

“Placing responsibility on women and girls to “just say no” and excusing boys and men as they “work a ‘yes’ out” works to erase institutional and structural responsibilities,” she also says.

The study examined how the media, education, law and upbringing plays a crucial role in shaping these attitudes among teens in America. It has certainly been a huge talking point this week in the news and Melissa Harris Perry dedicated an entire segment to it on her MSNBC show, complete with a panel of both men and women.

The fact that the fear of being “slut-shamed” is more of a concern than the general well being of a girl who has been sexually assaulted is very alarming and there needs to be action taken.

“[The girls] claimed ‘guys get away with everything’ and ‘they can do anything and not get in trouble.’ ” says Heather in the study, echoing the “boys will be boys” statement that still gets used to justify unwanted actions by men and boys.

These types of behaviors led most of the girls surveyed to admit they would question whether another girl is in fact telling the truth when it comes to reporting a case of assault, rather than immediately come to her defense and help her.

One of the issues raised was about the public discourse about sexual assault and rape, and how it can make a difference in young men and women’s actions. A new play based out of New York and touring around the states during April called ‘Slut’ examines these types of incidents. The cast is made of up teenage girls who share their own experiences from real life.

We are excited to share some exclusive blog posts from the teen girls in this play over the next week starting this afternoon so stay tuned for the “Slut Diaries”.

In the meantime, Melissa Harris Perry spoke about kidnapping and assault survivor Elizabeth Smart who is now using her media fame to talk about sexual abuse and break down stigma surrounding it.

Elizabeth is speaking out against the way society teaches women to stay abstinent because she says it forces girls to view themselves in a negative manner when assault does happen and make them feel “dirty”.

No matter how it happens, how it is “provoked”, what social standing the attacker has, sexual violence is wrong in all capacities. It should never be justified, and it is sickening to hear there are attitudes amongst adults which think the opposite. Young people don’t just invent how to treat each other, they learn it.

The media does need to take an in-depth look as to how they report sexual violence cases, and how discussion panels are conducted because these messages are what is shaping the next generation.

Take a look at Melissa Harris Perry’s roundtable discussion on the issue below:


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