Sex abuse and the rape culture



In recent days, the video posted on Facebook by Beppe Grillo and his heartfelt defense toward his son, accused, together with three other people, of sexual violence against a girl, has aroused controversy and indignation. On one hand, the critics accuse Grillo of having used his media and political power as the leader of Movimento 5 Stelle to express his frustration as a father, on the other hand it is the very content of the message that has sparked controversy and horror.

But is it yet another evidence of hypocrisy linked to the theme of "rape culture" since Grillo's video still scored more than 14.000 likes?

The issue of sexual violence against every human being and the right to denounce and defend one's dignity is still an unsolved issue that brings out prejudices and clichés that are difficult to unhinge.

Statements like “the girl was consenting otherwise why would she have waited 8 days before denouncing the rape?”, or “ she was drunk, she could expect it” have brought to light those widespread attitudes which tend to justify and normalize the sexual violence suffered by women.



A real sexual assault survivor always reports immediately”. 

This is a common myth which must be better analyzed. It is not uncommon for the victims to delay reporting to the police, or to family and friends. There are many legitimate reasons why this can happen: it may take time to process the trauma, indeed in some cases victims are not immediately able to use the terms “rape” or “sexual assault” to describe their experiences. The initial reaction of survivors may be to avoid reliving the experience and carry on with their everyday lives. This is a self-protection mechanism following serious trauma accompanied by deep feelings of shame or guilty. A further concern for many victims is whether they will be believed and supported. They may fear being accused of lying or exaggerating, and if the accused is a famous individual, of taking a sort of advantage from it. Ultimately, they may also believe they’ll face hostile or skeptical questions about their behavior before or during the assault.



According to UK Home Office data, 46% of recorded rapes were reported on the day they took place while the remaining 54% took from one day to more than six months, with young victims being more likely to delay the report. Not to mention that many episodes are not reported at all. In the US, for example, studies have estimated that two out of three sexual assaults are never reported.

Unfortunately, the delay between the alleged crime and the complaint is almost always used as a way to question the credibility and reliability of the complainant. That’s why it is important to increase awareness and understanding of why sexual abuse survivors may not initially report. A delay in reporting, in itself, should not affect the credibility of the allegations.




Grillo makes the matter even worst when he tries to create empathy with the audience, saying that “the boys under investigation are just guys… they are idiots", showing off the evergreen “boys will be boys” statement. They are young men; it is in their nature. But it sounds like the attempt to normalize a violent, predatory kind of behavior of unhealthy nature. All these sentences are part of a precise repertoire aimed at delegitimizing the version of the woman, instilling doubts and bias which, instead of protecting the victims, always tend to uphold the men version.



In essence, all these topics can be summarized in the concept of “rape culture”.

The sociological concept of rape culture was introduced in the 1970s by the second-wave feminist movement from the United States and was recently taken up by movements such as # MeToo, used on social media in 2017 as a consequence of the film producer Harvey Weinstein’s scandal, in order to demonstrate the spread of sexual violence and harassment suffered by women, especially in the workplace .

This term is used to describe a culture in which sexual violence is perceived to be common and in which the media tolerates, or even excuses, sexual violence. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language and terms such as victim blaming which means that the victim, rather than the perpetrator, bears responsibility for the assault. It is assumed that the victim does something to provoke the violence by actions, words, or dress code. Another term deriving from the rape culture is slut shaming, that is the practice of stigmatizing women's sexual behaviors and desires by considering them blatantly vulgar, inappropriate or provocative.



Rape culture is a human rights issue rooted in patriarchal societies where the value of male dominance over women and children in the family and in the society in general is still persistent. Quite often those who practice violence testify sexual acts shooting videos: the conquest of a woman is something to be kept as a trophy or worse, it is the track to be used to scare and blackmail.


Justice must always follow its path, verifying the truthfulness of the accusations and imposing the right penalties, but this cannot take place if the social environment is permeated with prejudice that view the woman as a fragile, unaware or unreliable individual. Above all, it is important to understand that rape culture is not just about rape “per se”, but a subtle and complex system of bias, beliefs and privileges that are so deeply ingrained in everyday life and even in apparently non-violent situations, which in many cases diminish and de-legitimize women's emancipation, independence and sexual freedom.


This type of culture prompts women to sacrifice their freedoms to stay safe, placing the burden of safety on their shoulders, and blaming them when they fail to save themselves. It is a social tax that weighs on the lives of women, and which is probably the inner root from which derives all the gender gaps, apparently disconnected from each other. If women do not feel safe or if someone puts control over what they can decide to do, they will have a much smaller range of opportunities on different grounds: social, educational and economic.




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