On the Existence of Rape Culture

by Elleanor Chin, Vice President of the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for Women 

“If you disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts”

So says David Lickey, public high school teacher in Portland Oregon. He says this in a letter he distributed to staff and the students, attacking the notion that rape culture exists, and propagating false and misleading statements about sexual assault.

Okay, Mr. Lickey, here goes. (And this is for Mr. Lickey because he brought it up, but it applies to Mr. Johnson or Mr. Russell or any of thousands of others.) As a fellow once said, “if you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.” First, Google “Rehtaeh Parsons”. You’ll need a strong stomach. Then, search “Steubenville Alayna 2015”. It sounds like you need the internet to recognize “Brock Turner” as well.

You do all that? Good. Now, a key part of the premise in your May 2, 2017 letter is rape culture is a doubtful premise because you don’t know any rapists (or don’t realize you do). All the men and boys you know agree rape is horrible. Setting aside whether your anecdotal understanding should be the benchmark, you now know of some rapists. Those internet searches will show you the pride of their respective communities, young men who thought it was totally fine to penetrate a woman who was incapable of consent, some more violently than others. If you think any of those events were actually okay – healthy sexual self-expression of young people- then we may be done talking. And I’ll hope none of the hundreds of vulnerable young women you teach have ever come to you scared, or hurt.

Next some facts: you assert rape is committed by a small cohort of violent social outliers. This myth has been disproved so thoroughly for so long, I had to read carefully to see if you were being facetious. Sexual offenses are most commonly committed by men that women not only know, but have existing relationships with: friends, husbands, boyfriends, fathers, and yes – high school teachers (look up that business teacher in Billings).

I don’t know you. I looked you up on the internet. Pictures from 2013 show a fit-looking man with silver hair and an engaging smile. If we met, we might enjoy conversation about being liberals and history geeks. I might never suspect you of being a man to use his power and access to an impressionable audience to demean women and undermine their credibility as individuals, and in the aggregate.

You have the ability to get your personal views out to hundreds of people who view you as an authority figure. You chose to package your ignorance, bounded by your limited personal experience, as dispassionate, measured fact. From there you moved on to suggest that somehow men and boys are the true victims, being treated as monolithic perpetrators of a misogyny that doesn’t exist because in the circles you move, men make themselves emotionally vulnerable in their intimate partnerships.

You have declared your experience, the life of an educated (and dare I guess, white and heterosexual) man, respected in your profession, the arbiter of the validity of everyone else’s lives. All of us are wrong, and have to be educated about the misconceptions of an “ill-defined” concept: every girl who has ever been groped or wolf-whistled on the street, every woman who has been told to walk to her car with her keys in her fingers, every woman who has been threatened in the most violent explicit terms by strangers when they set virtual foot on the internet. You elevated the legitimacy of David Lickey’s life experience over that of each of us who has listened to a man in our family laugh and say “makes you want to go rape someone right now” – when the Take Back the Night march goes by the house. You don’t know anyone like that? Lucky you. You have two choices. You can believe me when I say that I do, or you can decide I must be lying, for the simple reason that I’m not you.

What you missed about the concept of rape culture is: it’s descriptive. We don’t have to “do” anything to formulate it. It is the name we give to how we walk in the world, like it or not.

You say you know no rapists. You’re a high school teacher. You know bright, aggressive, charming young men. The statistics on men who will actually admit to sexual imposition on women means it’s mathematically unlikely you know no rapists. You did not proclaim in your letter whether you know any victims. If you have ever once in your life heard a woman described as “damaged goods,” while a man is lauded for “scoring,” you’ve seen rape culture, live and in the field. Do you know for sure not a single woman of your acquaintance has gone home after a “date” and spent an hour taking a shower and crying? Would they tell you if they had?

​You’re probably having a bad few days. You’ll either learn from it, or identify as a victim (I’m not sure how your belief in the marketplace of ideas fits in with that). I’ll have a drink with you and talk about American history, or chat some more about how we disagree. Coffee or beer. You pick, my treat. If it’s a beer, I’m sure no one will tell you that you have to keep your hand on it the Whole. Time. (just in case).

Contacts and Procedures for Immigration Allies, Lincoln County, Oregon

If you witness an individual or a group of people being detained by ICE, follow these                                  procedures:

  • Do not interfere with law enforcement. You could be detained or injured if you try to confront law enforcement agents.
  • Immediately or as soon as possible write down everything you are observing i.e. place, time, actions, identifications of arresting agency, any names of detainees.
  • If possible film or take photos of the detention activity. You have a legal right to do this.
  • Contact organizations in the state who need to know what has happened and can provide help to the detainees:
  • Oregon ACLU 503-227-3186 or 888-527-2258
  • Oregon Rural Organizing Project (ROP) 503-543-8417
  • Centro de Ayuda 541-265-6216
  • Servicios Legales de Oregon 503-981-5291 or 1-800-662-6096.

If a friend or acquaintance has been detained by I.C.E. or you think may have been

detained, the first thing you need to do is find where this person is.

 The quickest info available is usually the ICE hotline for detainees: 855-448-6903. Be sure to have the detainee’s full name. They should also have info on any court dates, attorney, expedited deportation order or other status.

  • To see if they are in custody of the Lincoln County Jail: 541-265-4277.

(If the person is in the county jail, they must have been arrested for a charge other      than immigration. It is illegal for Oregon law enforcement officials, funds or facilities be used  to enforce federal immigration laws.)

  • C.E. detainees are often sent to Immigration Detention in Tacoma, Washington 1-253-779-6000.

For information on dates and decisions of Immigration Court: 1-800-898-7180.

While locating the detainee also contact any of the organizations above for help.

Contact any family members or friends that you may know about to check on their well being.

Finally, keep informed, speak up and speak out!

This information has been summarized from a series of sources and does not constitute legal advice. For any legal questions, consult an attorney. Sponsoring organizations: Lincoln County Diversity Coalition, Immigration Information Response Team, Centro de Ayuda.


Informed Immigrant at informedimmigrant.com

Info on the Trump Executive Order, and programs such as DACA. A great long list of other resources.

Innovation Law Lab at innivationlawlad.org

“Tool Kit for An Inclusive Oregon.” It has a great video on local inclusivity resolutions.

Rural Organizing Project (ROP) at rop.org

One of Oregon’s most active human dignity organizations. Much info and ideas concerning immigration.

 Oregon Law Center at oregonlawcenter.org

Legal help for rural folks including immigrants. Will help individuals find an attorney or give advice on legal issues. English and Spanish.

ACLU Oregon at aclu-or.org  or Facebook page

Updates on current situation of immigrants in Oregon. Useful short films.

“ACLU answers questions on ICE immigration activities in Oregon.” Update on what is happening and what are simply rumors.

Causa at causaoregon.org

Organizer of marches and actions statewide. Contact for ways to participate and support.

Interfaith Movement for Immigration Justice (IMIrJ)

Info on the faith based sanctuary movement. Sanctuary Tool Kit.

Alto Trump at altotrump.com

“Know Your Rights” campaign. Report hate crimes here. A series of colorful handouts in English and Spanish on what to do in cases of ICE  actions or raids.

Don’t Get Your Undocumented Friends in Trouble: A How To. “

Very interesting explanation from an undocumented person of the kind of actions that may have negative affects on precisely the people you want to help. On the the Daily Demand website. Google the article.