The rape culture that everyone ignores

While many are eager to put a spotlight on the problem of campus rape, fewer are concerned about a prison system that all but encourages sexual assaults

Los Angeles prison
(Image credit: (Hans Gutknecht/ZUMA Press/Corbis))

The Rolling Stone story of a vicious gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity is now suspect. What really happened to the story's victim, "Jackie," is now unknown, and the culture-warrior frenzy surrounding the issue has beclouded anything we can learn from it. The one thing we have been assured of is that, Rolling Stone's snafus aside, the problem of sexual assault on campuses has reached epidemic proportions.

But we don't have to descend to the netherworld of Greek life to find evidence of an insidious rape culture. There are indeed state-supported institutions where gang rape is used as ritual initiation. There are institutional authorities that meet this culture with indifference or outright support. And we file the poor souls of this system under the heading: deserving victims. We joke in ways that suggest that if these rape victims did not want it, they should never have put on a prison uniform.

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