As an incoming college freshman, I cannot help but smile when my older friends and family members talk about the various activities and experiences that define the hallowed halls of their schools. My heart melts when I hear of those colleges that provide therapy puppies to students during exam weeks as a means of relieving stress. My inner nerd internally squeals with happiness when my aunts and uncles list the hundreds of courses I can take throughout the school year, subjects ranging from African dance to media studies to plant biology to Yiddish, many, if not all, of which are taught by professors and teachers whose unique backgrounds collectively give each school its personality. Yes, I am looking forward to college, to the new friendships I will form and the knowledge I will gain. Like many of my friends, I am excited for the future.
But I am not excited about campus rape, and you shouldn’t be either.
An oddly morbid idea isn’t it, to think of sexual assault as being socially acceptable, or harmless, or even uncontrollable on the part of the rapist. For some odd reason, however, the above notions have for the last forty years polluted our assessment of the topic, bringing to the misogynistic table horribly misguided opinions like “He’s only eighteen” or “She deserves it for wearing that revealing crop top in public.” In a nation where “slut” and “whore” are spoken with an unsettling degree of freedom, we fail to realize that we are capable of rational thinking, that being drunk does not equate to consent. Knowing the person who sits next to you in calculus does not give you the right to harm them.
Indeed, I refuse to support the idea that sexual assault is a “normal” or “ordinary” component of the college experience. Rape, whether the victim is a male or female, young or old, is neither petty nor imaginary. Rape—whether it appears in the form of ex-Pennsylvania State University coach Jerry Sandusky or in the criticism recently launched at several of the Ivy League colleges after Brown and Harvard failed to punish assailants on their respective campuses—is a dangerously real and spine-chilling part of our higher education system that must be discussed in the open, rather than in hushed voices. From Lady Gaga’s recent single, “Do What U Want” to college fraternities and sororities, rape culture is omnipresent, existing both everywhere and nowhere at the same time. While it is true that sexual assault does not occur on every university campus in the United States, it is prominent enough that I, as a male, can no longer sit back and allow rape victims—note that both men and women can be victims—to be continuously attacked for something that is not in their control. As a male, I cannot bring myself to think that rape is solely a girl’s problem. To view the crime of sexual assault with the lackadaisical mindset of “Well, sh*t happens” is, in my mind, nothing short of unsettling and disgusting. If we truly wish to eradicate the stereotypes regarding modern rape culture, if we wish to make it clear that not all men and women are evil, we need to stop whining and instead start taking action to rid our communities of narrow-minded standards.
There is no denying that our modern rape culture is fueled by our skewed perception of gender dominance and feminism. As seen in May when 22 year old Elliot Rodger killed six and wounded thirteen in Santa Barbara, California as a means of “avenging all the women” who had rejected him, our society is horribly inept when it comes to handling an individual crime that later raises questions regarding all individuals. The Santa Barbara shooting, which catalyzed a social media battle between two movements, #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen, has shown us that while men will rush to their smartphones or computers to defend themselves, they are willing to take little action to prevent subsequent problems. On one hand, males have asserted for years that women, “protected” by the feminist movement, should be able to defend themselves from male dominance, since after all, everyone is equal, right? On the other hand, the male sex is also incredibly gifted in asserting that females “invite trouble.” Finally, as an entire society, we are blind to the fact that males can be victims too; a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, found that while 1 in 5 U.S. women have been raped, 1 in 71 U.S. men have also been victims of sexual assault. Thus, the triple standard.
The Santa Barbara case is, however, merely one example of the overwhelming confusion regarding rape culture. In the world of athletics, rape victims are treated not with empathy, but with distaste. In one case, a female student at the University of Oregon was assaulted by three basketball players, who were later suspended from the campus for ten years. Despite the fact that the victim worked tirelessly to ensure that her voice was heard and that justice was properly administered, she continues to be labeled as a “career-ender.” For the rest of her life, she will be relentlessly attacked by outside individuals who, despite having no knowledge of the trauma she has suffered and will continue to suffer, place more emphasis on a college’s athletic reputation than on the safety of its students.
It has always been my belief that the primary goal of a university should be to protect and educate its students. There should not have to be a debate as to whether or not a school should inform its student body once an assault occurs. While I respect the element of confidentiality that accompanies such cases, I believe that students should be told when a rape occurs without having to know the specific individuals behind the case. Keeping secrets is merely proof that some universities care more about their reputation as a business and less about their recognition as an institution. The best college, in my opinion, is one that not only takes the time to conduct in-depth investigations for every crime on campus, but also takes measures to keep its students informed of these investigations as well.
I hope that my college years will be defined not by the sexual entitlement of my peers, but by a common understanding that is shared my both males and females. I hope that as a reporter for the college newspaper, I never have to write about a rape crisis on campus or publish an anonymous letter from a victim. Because one thing is absolute about rape and sexual assault:
Hiding it does not make it okay.
Shire, Emily. “Harvard’s Biggest Problem With Sexual Assault Is Harvard Itself.” The Daily Beast, 04 Apr. 2014. Web.
Vega, Cecilia, Cassidy Gard, Jim Vojtech, Erin Keohane, and Tara Berardi. “EXCLUSIVE: Santa Barbara Killer Smiled Before Shooting, Survivor Says.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 30 May 2014. Web.
LeTrent, Sarah. “Against His Will: Female-On-Male Rape.” CNN Living. CNN, 10 Oct. 2013. Web.
Muller, Sky. “Basketball Players Accused of Rape Suspended from University of Oregon.” KVAL 13. N.p., 24 June 2014. Web.