RAPE! Now That I’ve Got Your Attention…
Survivors will tell you that rape takes from you. There’s a piece of you that disappears that you don’t think you’ll ever get back. You’re more untrusting. You’re angrier. You wear a lot of clothes but you feel bare, exposed. You’re angry. You don’t understand why being in an elevator is making you breathless and shaking. You’re angrier.
Since I’ve joined the Mace and Crown, I’ve written nine articles that are either about or relate to rape or sexual assault. I investigated a sexual assault on our campus. I questioned fraternities on what they do to fight off the stigma of being nesting grounds for potential rape. I extensively interviewed and befriended a student who had been raped, who let me tell her story.
Writing on this subject has been the most rewarding, difficult experience of my life both professionally and personally.
But I’m tired of it.
I learned a lot. I learned more than I can ever describe. Along the way some things happened in the world outside of our ODU subculture. Rolling Stone wrote a false article wherein their source lied about being raped, setting back the validity of real rape victims. Emma Sulkowicz carried her mattress around Columbia University. Bill Cosby… well… you get the idea.
You know what I learned the most? Rape isn’t about sex. It’s about power. When you’re talking about spreading awareness about one person taking another person’s rights away, their choices away, their identity away through sex and violence it’s not simply flyers and hashtags. How do we do that now, though?
My research has led me to a highly concerning fact. The perpetuation of rape culture is like a hidden ethos. It’s become so ingrained in our society, especially on college campuses, that it’s a normalcy.
There’s a hidden phenomenon in our country: rape culture. What is rape culture? The best way for me to describe it is that aggression by males towards women for the purpose of sex is considered the norm. But it’s much broader and more complex. As with drug culture or frat culture, rape culture is a part of our society. Anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sunday has researched the differences between campus cultures in her study “Rape-Prone Versus Rape-Free Campus Cultures.”
Sunday presents that “the outstanding feature of rape-free societies is the ceremonial importance of women and the respect accorded the contribution women make to social continuity, a respect which places men and women in relatively balanced power spheres.”
We’re not just talking about spreading awareness of sexual assault. We’re talking about contributing to women’s rights.
Recently, the SGA hosted a small brainstorming session with various other student organizations such as fraternities, sororities, and administration officials. The discussion was meant to spur ideas which could help spread awareness of sexual violence on campus. Read about it here.
What they discussed will not have the intended impact they desire.
Although I hate to bring up the incident on 43rd street, it’s a relative topic. By talking to students, mostly freshman, I discovered that no one was really bothered by the banners and what they represented. It didn’t affect them one way or another.
So what’s worse: the rape or the apathy?
You give presentations on the dangers of sexual assault. You have a speaker come in and talk to classes. You write informative messages on the sidewalk. You wear ribbons. You write articles.
But you can’t do that now, can you? I believe most college campuses are apathetic. I don’t think it’s our fault, either. I think it’s just our generation. To not focus on these issues is a lot easier than facing some ugly facts.
Whether we admit it or not, there is a culture perpetuating rape. To tap someone on the shoulder and tell them that politely? I think we’re well past that. Someone once told me that by writing those articles I did more good for complete strangers than I would ever know. That one of those articles could have motivated someone to come forward about this rape, or that it could have deterred someone from making that choice. At the very least they told me that by reading even one, a survivor who’s pushed this pain down could have seen that there were others out there that could find help. They said maybe I made someone less angry.
For those people, instead of being polite, let’s try shouting for awhile.