Silence allows rape culture to persist

Published 10:36 am Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Vice President Joe Biden is known for his many gaffes. His speeches are often full of ready-made clips for late night comedians.

But on Tuesday, he said something this nation needs to hear. Biden called on “men to speak out against misogynistic locker room talk and insisted that men who stay quiet about rape culture and sexual assaults are accomplices,” Politico reported.

“You guys in the audience, we’ve gotta overcome this social discomfort of calling out the misogyny that happens when no women are present: the locker room talk, the bar banter, the rape jokes,” Biden said in a speech at the United State of Women Summit in Washington, D.C. “As a man, maybe it makes you uncomfortable, but if you let it pass because you wanna become one of the guys, you become an accomplice.”

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“As I point out to these young men on college campuses — it’s a fraternity party, you see a co-ed that is absolutely stone drunk, you see one of your brothers walking her upstairs,” Biden said. “If you don’t have the courage to walk up and say, ‘Hey, Jack, not in my house,’ you are an accomplice. You are an accomplice.”

“We have to take off the social blinders that make it so easy for people to overlook violence rather than confront it,” he said. “We have to throw the mindset that excuses sexual assault by saying: ‘Boys will be boys. It’s just the way it is.’ We have to ensure that survivors’ right to justice is always paramount above everything else, including — including — the perpetrator or the school’s reputation.”

It’s no secret that a culture of sexual violence against women exists. The statistics bear it out. Depending on the study used, as many as 20 percent of women are victimized by sexual assault in college. And often, those crimes aren’t reported because there’s so much shame associated with rape. Or because victims fear the system will let them down. Or they fear they will be blamed.

As much as parents and coaches would hate to admit it, the seeds of sexual assault can be planted in high school locker rooms and parties. Anyone who disagrees should spend 10 minutes in a room full of teenage boys.

And when those seeds grow into the problem we see on college campuses today, it should surprise no one. But too often, we turn a blind eye. We excuse the behavior. Or we pretend it’s someone else’s problem.

But Biden is right — when we do, we are accomplices.