03/16/2013 03:20 pm ET Updated May 16, 2013

Rape Exists Because We Condone Violence

Can we please stop framing rape as only about male perpetrators harming female victims? Rape is an extension of a cultural obsession with violence, not solely an issue of just one gender being violated. Let us not get confused; yes, there are specific ways that gender is targeted through rape (i.e. war), but that is not the totality of the issue.

Violence can be enacted in a number of ways: psychologically, mentally, physically and even take written form. Violence is a part of culture and rape is an extension of violence. Both males and females can commit rape and both males and females can be victims of rape. To frame rape as only an act that can be perpetrated by a male against a female silences male survivors and absolves female perpetrators entirely. If we want the violence to stop, we have to make a conscious choice; either we are interested in peace, safety and accountability for everyone, or not.

The movement against sexual violence challenges rape culture. Rape culture has to do with how we interpret who is considered a victim and a perpetrator, under what circumstances, and whether or not either parties involved should accept or be absolved of any level of responsibility for the act of rape. Rape culture is the outcome of society deciding what it will tolerate and what it will not when it comes to sexual violence.

The key to understanding rape culture is that it is really about transforming the acceptance of violence as a norm. This means that absolutely everything in our society is up for scrutiny, from our love of guns to our use of military. Interestingly, the current mainstream talk about rape is mixed in with issues of gun control and the epidemic of assaults reported in the military. What is problematic is that most of these conversations center around the care, prosecution rights and protection for female victims. Mainly focusing on females further pushes the very real prevalence of male victims into the shadows and cuts off any redress for them. A main focus on females also then associates all other forms of violence that intersect with rape like inter-personal violence and stalking as primarily women's issues.

The connections of rape to larger forms of violence is also overshadowed in mainstream talk. Advocates of access to guns give off a subtle message that somehow violence fighting violence is a reasonable solution to a deeply embedded cultural idea that violence can never be eradicated.

We can challenge rape culture by teaching all people that they have the power to intervene in small ways to transform violence. Each one of us should feel inclined to create a personal zone that outwardly denounces and refuses to use violence. How we speak, how we think and how we act must continually be changed until we bring to life a culture of peace. If we create a counter culture to violence, perhaps we can then see an extension into combating the culture of rape.

Solutions must be multifaceted, with the focus on building peaceful communities through a primary prevention focus. The discourse should be around how to budget for, institutionalize and empower prevention against violence. Any suggestions?