Editorial raises concerns about bigger issues
Letter to the editor
Rape on college campuses is a problem that has terrifying statistics, a problem that has been in existence for far too long. When reading the March 12 editorial “College sexual assault is real,” I found myself sickened by how Princeton University has handled the information they discovered through their survey — yet also unsurprised. Being a rape victim on campus is something that seems like a “don’t ask, don’t tell” topic for many schools. Cases of colleges trying to silence victims have been happening in the past and present, even going so far as condemning victims for violating “honor codes” by reporting their rapes. When this is happening, what’s hiding a survey’s results to a school?
Statistics will say 1 in 3 women have been raped on campus, 1 in 4, 1 in 5, etc. The issue of how we even define rape, and how many victims still are silent about their rape means that it is hard to even give accurate statistics. The one fact that we have for certain is that far too many people have been raped on a college campus and in the world as a whole.
With that in mind, the editorial and commentary published yesterday “Keep your hands to yourself” raised excellent points about rape culture and sexual assault on campus. We live in a society that blames victims, first asking them questions such as: “What were you wearing? What were you drinking? Did you invite them in or follow them somewhere?” Instead, why not ask: “What was their name? Where can we find them? Do you want to press charges?” Or even better, say one of the most important things for victims to hear: “This was not your fault, it was the fault of the rapist.”
We live in a society that teaches: “Don’t get raped.” It should be teaching: “Don’t rape.” The editorial board talks about remembering sexual assault programs from their college orientation, but I feel that the problem starts even earlier than that. I can remember being given legal definitions of rape and sexual assault, a few statistics and a list of ways to avoid rape in my high school health classes. Where was the “don’t rape” lesson? Where was the insistence that our bodies are our own, and not for someone else to violate? Where was the “don’t wake someone up to ‘have some fun,’ don’t take advantage of them if they’re drunk, don’t assume a skirt of any length is an invitation, don’t assume that their ‘no’ is really a secret ‘yes’ or that they are begging for it?” Where was any of that while we were growing up past a “keep your hands to yourself” rule in kindergarten, which Zarbiv points out is clearly not being listened to?
If we talk about rape and talk about what a victim goes through, the problem gets worse. Rape victims are more likely to suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug and alcohol abuse and suicidal tendencies. Society implying constantly that a victim is to blame only makes the aftereffects of rape worse. One cannot simply “get over it,” and no matter how often we are told not to listen to the media and those around us that may appear ignorant on the subject, it is hard not to internalize victim blaming when it is the norm of society as a whole to do so.
With statistics showing a higher rate of rapes on campus than off campus and outside of campus life, it seems that victim blaming is just as bad, if not worse, on campus. I can remember a lecture on rape culture in an anthropology class where many male students made comments like, “Well, if the rapist is attractive, doesn’t that at least make it better?” No. It is still rape. Students also made statements implying the victim is to blame — while several visibly upset female students at points would leave the room and come back a few minutes later after calming down. In education classes, we discuss how school is a microcosm of society. The fact that this was happening in an educational setting means society has problems with rape culture. In this culture, rape and victim blaming are seen as a fact of life and not a social injustice. Where this begins with earlier education not making it clear that these statements and actions are unacceptable, more must be done beforehand and continue being done beyond an orientation when someone gets to campus.
Rose Flahive is a Graduate School of Education student majoring in English education.