Nothing gets me up on my soapbox more than comments about rape, especially rape on college campuses. It seems that despite the plethora of statistics laid out plainly in nifty little infographics, the public remains woefully ignorant to the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and rape right here in the U.S. of A. Even scarier is that members of the media with a mass audience espouse this same ignorance.
Take Fox’s “The Five” host Bob Beckel. When discussing Colorado Democrat Joe Salazar’s comments about keeping guns off campus by saying that on-campus call boxes and rape whistles should suffice to protect against rape, Beckel asked, “When was the last time you heard about rape on campus?”
I don’t know what people don’t understand about the statistic that one in six women will be raped in their lifetime. My only explanation is that the general perception of rape must be seriously out of whack! Do people only picture perverted “Law and Order: SVU”-worthy criminals in white vans stalking women? Is this the public’s sole view of rape? Or maybe the media’s coverage of gang rape in India makes the concept seem foreign or remote? Do people think that date rape, or marital/relationship rape are not real issues to contend with? Let me repeat this again: one in six women will be raped in their lifetime.
In college I was a member of Greeks Against Sexual Assault (GASA), group that sent two representatives from every fraternity and sorority to be trained on all aspects of sexual assault by the campus’s Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC). Men and women learned how it can be prevented, how to not stand idly by when a friend or peer was at risk, what defines consent, and what to do if a member of your sisterhood or brotherhood comes to you and says, “I’ve been sexually assaulted” or “I was raped.” We were trained to be student resources, giving presentations and being a safe space to talk about sexual assault. And we were utilized.
Not every campus is so lucky: on Monday night, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs posted tips for women to avoid being sexually assaulted. (They had been removed by Tuesday afternoon according to MSN.com.) The tips, which included vomiting on an attacker, saying you are on your period and taking your shoes off to run faster, might be helpful if you are being pursued by creepy rapist in white van. Really, the rape-avoidance tips only addressed a small part of what defines rape. These tips do not teach how to preemptively combat sexual assault; they place the burden on the potential victim rather than educate the perpetrator about consent. These tips reek of a lack of understanding, and are unlikely to help you in the more likely situation that you’re assaulted at a college party or bar where alcohol is flowing.
The most surprising fact that the men and women in GASA learned from SARC was about saying yes or no to engaging in sexual activities. If you’ve been drinking, legally there cannot be consent. If the wasted co-ed doesn’t say “no,” it does not mean she actually said “yes.” If a person is not conscious there can be no consent. Men or women who wake their partners up by having sex with them, that’s technically rape. You didn’t ask, “Hey do you want to have sex right now?” and receive an affirmative “yes.”
I understand why rape came up in a discussion about guns on campus. But rape prevention tips putting the onus on the victim shouldn’t be dragged into political discussions about concealed weapons, and in my opinion, politicians should not be discussing rape unless they are planning on giving more funding to rape victims, VAWA, or putting real muscle into education. We need basic education of what sexual assault is, how prevalent it is, and how it really is a big fucking deal. We need to challenge the idea that rape is not just committed by scary criminal rapists, but anyone who violates someone sexually when there’s no consent.
Here is a good resource for education and or reporting sexual assault.
Update, 10:45 p.m.: Bob Beckel apologized for his comments on Wednesday, saying “It’s a horrible, horrendous issue. Simply put, rape is rape–whether it’s date rape or it’s somebody coming in off the campus trying to rape somebody else. I very strongly feel that way. So, I just want to straighten the record out on that.” [The Wrap]
Contact the author of this post at Sarah.Gray@TheFrisky.com