Saturday, September 8, 2012

Letter Response to Sexual Assault Article

Last Wednesday, the student paper published an article on sexual assault. In that article, one of the prevailing themes was how much of a disparity there is between the number of attempts/assaults and the number of reports. What the article did not mention is why this disparity most likely exists. Well, I will: it exists because of articles exactly like this one.

If I was to glance at this article without years of study of sexual assault and gender, I would assume two things: that women should live in fear because it is their sole responsibility to protect themselves from rape, and that whether because they wear sexually appealing clothing (like that in the ostentatiously irresponsible graphic) or because they did not do enough to protect themselves they would be implicitly responsible for rape if it does occur. And that is bullshit. Most rape victims already feel guilty because they didn’t say “no” loud enough (or at all), because they didn’t plan ahead better, because they trusted someone who took grotesque advantage of their trust, because they got out of bed that morning, because they had the audacity to exist in proximity to a rapist. And you know what? None of that matters. Because the only person who is responsible for rape is THE PERSON WHO ACTUALLY RAPES ANOTHER PERSON.

And it isn’t as if these rapists are all troglodytes waiting behind bushes and under rocks for a lady in a short skirt to walk past. They are friends, they are brothers, they are boyfriends, they are husbands, they are fathers, they are priests, they are scout leaders, they are teachers, they are rarely but occasionally even women. About 2/3 of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Does this mean women should never be in an intimate relationship with a man? Of course not. But it does mean that at a certain point, women are going to be vulnerable and the only person who can truly prevent rape is the person who might commit it. And yet even though I have read plenty of articles encouraging women to travel in fierce packs and carry their car keys like cat claws whenever they're outdoors, I have yet to see an article saying “Hey, guys, STOP RAPING PEOPLE.”

 Does that sound obvious to you? It does to me too! And yet there are still plenty of people who persist writing articles like this one. Articles that insult women by making it their problem that other people don’t view them as fully human. Articles that insult men by implying they are slobbering sex-crazed monsters who don’t have it in their power to stop themselves from participating in the abject dehumanization of another person. Articles that insult heterosexual male peer groups by not believing they can send constant messages to each other about respecting women, about what consent is and why it’s important, about not tolerating jokes or talk that diminishes the effects of rape. Most men, like most women, are pretty good people! Why can’t we expect more of them, as we seem so comfortable doing with women?

This is to say nothing of male victims of sexual assault, of child victims of sexual assault, of sexual assault in homosexual relationships, of what the lifelong aftermath of sexual assault is like for victims, of the way our culture tacitly perpetuates so many myths about rape. This is a topic that demands more. And The Beacon failed this time. Fortunately for them, and us, they’ve got hundreds of more chances to do better next time.

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