4 Easy Ways Schools Can Stop Rape Culture

One of my friends called me the other day to discuss a situation at his school. He is the coach of the boys’ basketball team and a teacher at a junior high school, and he was deeply disturbed by a situation that involved some of the boys on his team. As it turned out, a few of the boys decided it would be funny to scare a much younger girl, so one of them went up to her and started screaming at her while the other boys sat around and watched. It wasn’t long before another teacher broke up the mob, but the damage was already done. The girl was alone and scared and these boys were given a few stern words and sent to class.

Since the boys were all on the basketball team, that seemed the best place to punish these boys for their inappropriate behavior. It was decided that the boys would be suspended from several games, despite pleading from the girls’ parents for harsher punishments. My friend wanted to dismiss the students from the team, but his administration deemed that punishment too harsh, so he went ahead with the suspensions.

My friend was concerned that it was cases like this one that worked toward perpetuating rape culture in our society, and lead to cases like the one in Steubenville, OH where members of the high school football team raped a girl and their coach defended them. I absolutely agree. Rape culture is a problem in our society in general, but it starts when students are defended or championed — or, in this case, punished too lightly — for their actions against women. If students can be educated on this before it is too late, we have a much better chance of ending rape culture once and for all. What follows are four ways that schools can start to end rape culture now.

Bullying vs. Harassment

This situation my friend was in is disturbing in many ways, but mostly because these boys were treated as bullies rather than harassers. Bullying is a huge problem in our schools today, and is something that teachers and administrators are working tirelessly to eradicate. However, harassment can often look a lot like bullying and, surprisingly, the punishments for bullies are often lighter than those for harassment. These boys were picking on this girl, to be sure, but the mob mentality of the boys watching it happen, and the fact that these older boys chose to attack a much younger girl point directly to harassment. The first step in stopping rape culture is to recognize the fine line between bullying and harassment and punish students accordingly.

Zero Tolerance

After harassment has been defined and proven, schools must adopt a zero tolerance policy toward offenders. We live in a society that too often wants to coddle students and give out positive reinforcement for good behavior rather than negative punishment for bad behavior. Unfortunately, there is no feasible way to positively reinforce students who don’t harass students, so punishment is necessary. Schools should adopt a zero tolerance policy for harassment, and it should be made clear to students that these types of behaviors will not go unnoticed, nor will they go unpunished.

Present a United Front

Zero tolerance policies only work when everyone is on board. If you have an administration or teacher that gives one punishment to one student and a different punishment to another student, which often happens with athletes, students get the message loud and clear that certain student get special privileges. What this tells them is that the crimes aren’t really that bad. When adopting any policy, teachers and administrators need to work together to implement it, which means talking and reviewing old cases to ensure consistency before punishment is doled out.

Never Blame the Victim

The most shocking part about the Steubenville, OH case were the words of one of the coaches after the rape was discovered. He said, “The rape was just an excuse, I think… What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that?” Fortunately, my friend’s administrators didn’t blame the victim, but they certainly tried to twist her words to make the situation seem like less than it actually was. Victim blaming is one of the most terrible things anyone can do, and if schools or coaches do it, we as a society tend to think that it’s okay.

Related Stories

Do “Nice Guys” Contribute to Rape Culture?

How Can We Raise Boys in a World Where Steubenville Exists?

The Real Invisible Women: A Look at Te’O and Campus Rape Culture

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Albert


A F.
Athena F4 years ago

Zero tolerance for bullying, harrassing, and blaming the victim. It's gone on for far too long, in every culture. Time to stand up!

Scot Roberts
Scot Roberts5 years ago

Sorry to hear about your experience Cheyenne. Welcome to Care2 though.

Cheyenne Pritschau

This article really needs to be put in every public school.... My freshman year of high school I was assaulted by a senior boy on school grounds. I was sent home early the next day and suspended. The police refused to report my rape because they did not believe I was "really" raped. I said no. I did not want it. The other boy was suspended but was allowed to stay at school and attend the homecoming pep rally. He transferred schools by choice, not by force. I now have a permanent suspension on my record that will lessen my chances of college acceptance. Our public schools really need to realize the rape isn't an excuse and needs more punishment towards the rapists and NOT the victims.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

victim blaming runs rampant. that needs to STOP. NOW

Magdika Cecilia Perez

thank you

James Wilcox
James Wilcox5 years ago

Just started reading more of that post at Toysoldier:

"Of course, Burns is not charged with child rape. She is charged with child abuse and sexual misconduct with a minor."

Who says women don't recieve less severe punishment for the same crimes as men? This is a clear case of your VAWA tax dollars at work, redefining the legal definition of rape to suit women and exclude males. Even two year old males.

James Wilcox
James Wilcox5 years ago


According to court documents obtained by the Phoenix New Times, police said they responded to a 911 call from Burns' home on March 24. On their arrival they found the boy crying and bleeding from his rectum.

The child was rushed to the Phoenix Children's Hospital, where doctors discovered a foreign object lodged in his body. They noted that he was also suffering from other rectal injuries as well as a "hanger-type" bruise on his hip and another bruise on his neck.

Read more of this post

James Wilcox
James Wilcox5 years ago

The first way to stop rape is to include boys in discussions about sexual violence against children. Feminists do the exact opposite.

@Promoting Healthy Masculinity PCAR (PA Coalition Against Rape)
Although the anti-sexual violence and feminist movements have done tremendous work and education around sexism and how harmful it is to women and girls, men and boys have not historically been part of this conversation.

Then they can include women as perpetrators of horrific child abuse in the discussions.
National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey ...
1. According to the NISVS 2010 Report approximately every 5th rape* victim have a female perpetrator. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics 66,700 men were incarcerated** under state jurisdiction for rape while only 600 women were incarcerated** for rape.

Here's an example:

Mother rapes 2-year-old son with sex toy
by Toysoldier
This is a fairly horrific case of child rape and abuse. But in keeping with the need to talk about female sex offenders, I think it is important to mention this case:

A 21-year-old mother from Phoenix, Arizona has been charged with sexually abusing her two-year-old son with a vibrator.

Rickesha Burns is accused of assaulting the toddler by forcing the sex toy into his anus. The object had to be surgically removed.

According to court documents obtained by the Phoenix New Times, police said they responded t

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

thank you

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M5 years ago

I was confronted with a situation of a young boy whose father had incessantly yelled at and eventually hit his wife. This boy was so confused, as he loved his father so much and also his mother. When I was asked what I thought, I explained that it is NEVER OKAY to hit a woman!, and that the person who can walk away from a bad situation is the better person.
This boy had suffered from name calling-bullying at school as he was a lot bigger in height and weight than kids his own age. He never fought back, he simply quit hanging around any so-called friends who knew these boys. He also put himself in between a girl and a boy that was berating her. My own feeling is that common decency to the feelings of others, whether a girl or a boy must be taught very early, starting in kindergarten. I agree with the steps set out above, and feel that teachers, administrators and parents must all be on the same side.