We elected to write a curriculum unit on rape because we see that our students’ lives are often touched by violence. Students, as well as adults, frequently have distorted perceptions regarding both the rape victim and the rapist. Our primary objective in the presentation of this material is to sensitize students to the emotional and physical trauma suffered by the rape victim. Students have verbalized that a rape is often the woman’s fault and that she really wanted it to happen. Others view rape as “just having sex” with a stranger and fail to realize the humiliation involved or the fact that rape often occurs when the rapist is someone with whom the victim is acquainted.
Since the early 1970s and the resurgence of the women’s movement, there have been several excellent studies and books published on rape. These contain a multitude of case studies and interviews with actual rape victims. In addition to the information we have presented here, we urge teachers to read some of these first-person accounts in order to better understand the complexities of rape.
Rape is a woman’s issue because, except in those rare instances of homosexual rape, it is the woman who is the victim. However, it is a man’s issue too, because women who have been raped need the support and understanding of all those around them including their fathers, brothers, husbands, and friends.
Feminist writers see rape as an extension of a male-dominated society’s control over females. Since the Stone Age, women have been viewed as possessions of first their fathers, and then of their husbands. In the Old Testament, we are told “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife . . . , nor anything that is thy neighbors.” (Exodus 20: 17).
Little girls are taught to be passive and little boys to be aggressive. When these stereotypes become extended to our sexual roles, some people feel that women want to be sexually dominated by men, and that men have the right to demand sexual compliance from any female.
We intend this unit to provide information on rape as a crime of violence, but we hope to go beyond that and raise the consciousness of those who believe that men are free to demand sexual favors from women.