This doesn’t make sense. People who use the phrase “rape culture” do not deny that rape is a matter of individuals making the active choice to rape. “Rape culture” is a very useful way to describe the idea that rapists are given a social license to operate by people who make excuses for sexual predators and blame the victims for their own rapes. Instead of recognizing this, or, at the very least, just not bringing it up at all in its memo, RAINN instead bashes a straw man, arguing that the focus on “rape culture” diverts “the focus from the individual at fault, and seemingly mitigates personal responsibility for his or her own actions.”
Feminists who coined and spread the phrase “rape culture” are not denying that rapists need to be held personally responsible for their criminal behavior. They are pointing out all the cultural reasons that this doesn’t happen: the myth that false accusations are common, the myth that rapists are just confused about consent, and the myth that victims share the blame for drinking too much or otherwise making themselves vulnerable. Only by tackling these cultural problems will we be able to see clearly that rapists know exactly what they’re doing and punish them for it. Rape culture doesn’t cause the desire to rape, but it allows rapists to rape with the confidence that comes from knowing you’re very unlikely to be prosecuted for it. Surely they have Google search at the RAINN offices that could have helped clear this up, but if not, an intern could have called one of the many feminists who speak out regularly about this issue to understand it better before dismissing it publicly.
This is one of the really frustrating cases when (roughly speaking) cultural actors with a wide reach, like RAINN, ignorantly or deliberately do not understand slightly more complex concepts that describe cultural phenomena/problems. The term rape culture does not negate the rapist’s personal responsibility/guilt. However, It’s useful to describe all the other problematic aspects in our culture that are terrible in addition to the individual cases of sexual assault, violence.