Defeat Rape Culture

On Thursday, 10/16, I talked to my students about sexual assault and rape culture, and the importance of all of us taking steps to reducing this shameful phenomenon, given that rape is the most frequently occurring violent crime on our campus (and on many others), yet the one for which virtually all perpetrators go unpunished. You may watch the video of our conversation here or under the video section of this website. For those who do not want to/can’t watch a video, here’s a transcript of what I said, including some comments I would have mentioned if I had more time. The text below also includes links to some of the sources I used for this presentation:

Last week I talked about opportunities for women and why it’s sometimes harder for women to dream big and achieve the same goals as men. This week, I’d like to deviate from my practice of talking about career goals and discuss an issue that affects women, but also men, and that is relevant here on this campus and many other college campuses in America. It’s bad, and it’s something we can all help prevent, and it’s called sexual assault.

First, let’s talk statistics (sources for the numbers quoted below can be found here and here): how serious is the problem of sexual assault, and particularly rape?
Every year in the US, 1,270,000 women are raped. That makes us the country with the 6th highest rape rate in the world.
9 out of 10 rape survivors are women. Compared to the general population, rape survivors are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide. 2 out of 3 rapes are committed by someone known to the survivor. 4 in 10 rapes occur in the home of the survivor, 2 in ten at the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative, only 1 in 12 in a dark street or a parking garage. 72-81% of college women who are raped are intoxicated, and becoming voluntarily intoxicated increases the statistical risk for women to be raped more than any other action. 1 in 3 rapists are also intoxicated. Women in sororities are 74% more likely to be raped than non-Greek women. Men in fraternities are 3 times as likely to rape than men not involved in Greek life. 64% of rapists have consumed alcohol or drugs immediately before they rape.
Out of every 100 rapes, only 40 are reported to the police (but only 5 of 100 among college students, in part because university officials discourage survivors to press charges). Of these, only 10 lead to an arrest, 8 get prosecuted, 4 lead to felony conviction, and only 3 spend a single day in prison. So 97% of rapists walk free, and that’s, again, in the general population. College students who rape have less than 1% chance of going to prison or even being charged. Most college student rapists go on to have wonderful careers, while the lives of those they’ve raped are forever destroyed.

These numbers make rape the least prosecuted and convicted violent crime, and the most common violent crime on college campuses, and that includes Ball State. According to the latest crime statistics published by the university this month and covering 2013, there were 27 reported acts of what the report calls “forcible sex offenses” (this means rape or attempted rape; I’m not really sure what non-forcible means in this context). Bearing in mind that on average only 5% of cases on college campuses are reported, this number of 27 actually represents about 540 incidents of rape or attempted rape. That’s 6% of the female student population here (given that 9423 women enrolled as undergraduates at Ball State that same year), and that’s just last year.

This leads me to the most alarming statistic of all: 1 in 4 female college students will experience rape or attempted rape by the time they graduate college.
How much is 1 in 4? If you are a woman who volunteered for this presentation, please stand up. Everyone else, please look around.

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One quarter of the women in my class standing up to demonstrate what 1 in 4 would mean if the statistic applied in our class alone.

 
This is what 1 in 4 women would look like if we applied the statistics to this class. Look around you, see how many of your classmates 1 in 4 women actually is. These are not mere statistics: it can happen to people you know, here on campus, around you, and very likely, it has already happened to women you know.

Why is rape and sexual assault so rampant in our society? Why aren’t more rapists going to prison? The main reason is that we live in what is called rape culture.
Rape culture is defined as a reality in which rape is normalized, excused, tolerated, and even condoned due to societal norms and practices about sex and sexuality.
In practice, rape culture is the objectification of women as sex objects, the tolerance and dismissal of sexist and offensive language men use toward women in public places, the assumption that women need to take all sorts of precautions to not get raped, blaming the victim (“she was asking for it,” “she drank too much,” “she dressed like a slut”), failing to prosecute rapists and allowing college student rapists to graduate with distinction, and the denial that rape is as widespread a phenomenon as it really is.
Let’s take a look at some examples. Rape culture starts with advertisements and commercials:

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Rape culture continues with politicians, some of whom really appear to hate women so much that they would even claim that women should accept and even enjoy rape because it is the will of God (note: the quotes below are all from Republican politicians; if anyone finds a pro-rape-culture quote by a Democrat, please share it with me and I will update this post. I haven’t been able to find one yet):

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Rape culture is also out there on the web, in social media; you don’t even have to look hard enough:

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And it is rampant among the people who are supposed to protect us, the police – another reason why so many survivors are not pressing charges. Here are some examples of police officers’ responses to rape charges pressed by survivors:

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This Oklahoma police officer had a particularly “useful” tip for women who wished to avoid rape: follow the law, so the police doesn’t have to pull you over and you don’t get raped on the highway.

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Finally, rape culture is on our campus too.

 

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These images were all taken here, on this campus. The subjects are all Ball State students, and the images were shared publicly on Ball State Fessions, a very popular twitter page followed by over 7000 people that has been instrumental in promoting rape culture on campus and in harboring rapists who tweet freely about the passed-out women they had sex with.

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So what can we do? How do we stop this?

First, we need to accept some basic assumptions, and start educating everyone around us about them:

1. Women don’t get raped; men rape them.

2. Rape happens because someone planned for it to happen, not because she was asking for it.

3. A rape survivor is never ever responsible for being raped, no matter what she was wearing or how much she had to drink. Only her rapist is.

4. A woman who dresses provocatively, seems very or overly friendly, or talks about sex is still not asking for it.

5. If she does not say yes, loud and clear, an explicit yes, or cannot say yes because she is sleeping or passed out or drugged or intoxicated, it means no. There’s no shady area here, it’s not borderline or unclear. Having sex without explicit consent is rape. Having sex with a girl who had too much to drink is rape, even if you are also drunk. Yes, this means that all you male students who had sex with a semi-conscious girl at a party, who wasn’t objecting to your actions but didn’t really say yes either, are rapists. You may be walking around us like ordinary students, but you are criminals and you belong in prison.

6.When a friend had too much to drink, take her home or to her room before she finds herself in a dangerous situation. Because chances are, if she had too much to drink, so did the men around her. Don’t be a bystander. Interfere, extract your friends from dangerous situations.

7. Men too can play a major role here: speak up against rape, among your friends and within your fraternities. When you see a friend getting too touchy-feely with a drunken woman at a party, pull him or her away. If you know of someone who slept with a woman who could not give consent, turn him in to school authorities and the police. He may be in your fraternity, but a criminal should no longer be your brother.

8. If a woman is passed out in a party you are at, find her friends and get her out of there. Make sure she reaches her room and bed safely, so she doesn’t wake up the next day at a stranger’s bed or on some random bathroom floor wondering what had happened last night and who had violated her body.

9. If your female friend is a survivor, be a listener, and offer to go with her to the police or to file a complaint with the university. The police and university officials are less likely to dismiss a woman’s claims when a man is present.

So, to sum it up, we should not be telling women to be passive, not to dress provocatively, to take up less space, to not be dominant, to watch where and when they walk, to not lead men on, to not walk alone, to not drink too much, to not invite attention, to not sleep with too many people, to be careful who they talk to, to carry pepper spray, to take self defense classes, to never walk home alone, to carry keys between their fingers, to not leave their open drink anywhere, to not go into public bathrooms alone, or to not go out at night, but rather tell men not to rape and call promoters of rape culture such as BSUFessions out on their shameful practices.

There’s a lot we can do here on this campus to help prevent sexual assault and rape, and I invite anyone who is interested in doing something to get in touch with me. Just email advice@fivehundredwords.net or message me via the Facebook page.

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