By Spenser Hickey
Assistant Copy Editor
Reading the story on sexual assault reporting on pages 4 and 5 and the above editorial about two young rape victims, I am reminded again of the double atrocities involved with rape—the act itself and the way we as a society treat those who have survived it after they come forward.
This was never clearer than during and after the Steubenville rape trial, as the teenage survivor—named by several media channels—had to suffer again under an onslaught of threats, or insults, of those who said “she was asking for it.”
Some said because she’d gone to the party and gotten as drunk as she did, she hadn’t really been raped.
That’s one of stupidest arguments I’ve ever heard. It’s a statement so idiotically backward it’s almost comedic, if it weren’t so serious.
By legal definition, the fact that she was so intoxicated means that any sexual act would automatically be rape, because she could not consent. It’s the law.
And yet there were still many who said, on various social media sites, that she was “asking for it.”
It makes me sick just to write that. It’s victim-blaming at its darkest and most vile. It’s also something that’s rarely, if at all, applied to any other crime out there.
Say a man walked out of a bar after having a few too many beers and was robbed at knife point.
Would any one, aside from maybe the thief’s lawyer, try to make the serious argument that it wasn’t really theft because the man was drunk, or maybe he just gave the man his wallet and then regretted doing so and called it a theft afterwards?
Of course not.
And yet those are common arguments held against rape survivors who speak out in court—well, some rape survivors, that is.
Look back at the Jerry Sandusky trial—no one in the media was talking about the negative impact his sentence would have on his life as if it were a tragedy, as they did frequently during the Steubenville trial.
There was no public movement accusing those survivors of lying, or of having brought their assault upon themselves.
Often, many who do not overtly blame survivors for their assaults offer suggestions on how not to be raped.
“Women should avoid dressing like sluts,” one Toronto police officer said in 2011 when asked what could be done to prevent rapes.
The statement led to the Canadian and US SlutWalk movement, held here at OWU the past two years. The movement, often a march, attempts to reclaim the derogatory term while demonstrating that rape is caused by perpetrators, not what survivors were wearing at the time.
It’s a common view that the burden to prevent rape lies with the survivors, not those truly responsible for such acts.
This view is at the heart of the documentary “The Invisible War,” shown recently at Ohio Wesleyan.
The U.S. military, working to stem a sexual assault epidemic within their ranks, focused on PSAs urging women not to walk alone at night and other risk reduction tips.
While these may help to prevent rapes, they do little to address the root cause of the problem, instead perpetuating it by telling women they need to avoid being raped rather than telling men not to rape.
While rape can—and does—happen between all genders and sexual orientations, Department of Justice statistics say 99 percent of reported rapists are male.
It is with us men that the responsibility for preventing rape lies, either by not carrying out such atrocious crimes ourselves or by taking action as bystanders to stop them before they occur.
While ending them for survivors’ sake should be enough of a reason to take on societal ills of patriarchy and rape culture, we men are also harmed by such negative concepts, as they portray us as sex- and control-crazed monsters, void of emotion and ready to rape at any moment.
So what can OWU students—male or female—do to address these problems?
As a start, attend programming: house projects and discussion-based events (such as the recent “It Is My Business” workshop); film showings (like “The Invisible War”) or student performances of “The Vagina Monologues.”
Building from that, go to a club meeting, like Sisters United, or be active as a supporter at Take Back the Night or SlutWalk. It’s an emotional experience but a worthy one, and a step to a better future.