Rape culture is a worrisome phenomenon in which attitudes of sexual harassment, rape, and misogyny are perpetuated and normalized within our society through forms of media and social interaction.

To get a better understanding of the effects of rape culture in the university setting, I sat down to talk with Karen Basciano from the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre (KSAC).

“Rape Culture is woven into the fabric of our society, especially in social media,” she explained.

According to Basciano, in today’s climate of digital connectivity, we are not critical enough about what is spread through social media.

“Television programs such as Two and Half Men, Family Guy, and reality shows are feeding into rape culture,” she says.

These shows make light of sexual violence and deem it as funny and entertaining. Ask any survivor of sexual violence, it is not funny.

In 2010, a MacLean’s Magazine article pegged Peterborough’s rate of reported sexual assaults at 26 percent higher than the national average.

Women aged 15 to 24 continue to be at the highest risk of sexual assault locally, a fact which is consistent with global statistics. In fact, young woman are four times more at risk of sexual violence during the first eight weeks of college or university, according to Metrac.org.

As a city with both a college and university, says Basciano, we have many young people at risk of sexual assault, but also other forms of sexual violence including harassment and intimate partner violence.

So, do we feel safe to report in Peterborough?

According to Canadian statistics, of every 100 sexual assaults only six are reported to the police, and only one to two percent of date rapes are reported. Is rape culture to blame?

The Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre is currently doing research and speaking to survivors about their experiences.

The truth is, yes, it is hard to report. As a survivor of rape, I was bullied, blamed, and even had my car scratched up.

I was also almost kicked out of my college program because of the academic impacts of the violence on my life, so I have a very good idea about why it is hard to report.

I finally did report, and my attacker faced jail time. I am a survivor who took that frightening step, and with every step after I grew stronger to fight against the violence I had faced since I was 12 years old.

Rape and rape culture on campus needs to be stopped now. Please speak up when someone makes a ‘rape joke’ because it is not funny.

Make it easier for survivors to report the violence by being a supportive friend and listener.

Be the voice of survivors when they can’t speak. Speak up!

If you have experienced sexual violence, people are there to support you. Please call the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre 24/7 Crisis Support Line at 1-866-298-7778.