Quick Hit: Combating the Campus Rape Crisis
There’s a must-read article by Jaclyn Friedman up at The American Prospect about rape on college campuses.
Cautious estimates suggest that nearly one in every 10 female college students will be raped while she’s at school. With an estimated 18 million students attending college in the U.S. this year, that’s (conservatively) over 150,000 young women who’ll be raped while at college this year alone. That’s a public health crisis. It’s time to start treating it like one.
But Friedman echoes the criticisms many in the sexual violence prevention movement (and us here at Happy Bodies) have leveled against the approach colleges take to sexual violence prevention. Telling women to watch their drinks, to curtail their behavior, to watch the way they dress and act and with whom they spend their time is not an effective way to prevent rape, and it places responsibility–and thus, if an act of sexual violence is perpetrated, blame–on victims rather than perpetrators.
…making rape prevention the responsibility of young women teaches students that guys can’t be expected to be responsible for their own actions. Not surprisingly, that results in student bodies eager to let rapists off the hook and campus policies (like the one recently implemented at Tufts that forces victims into “mediation” with their rapists) that treat rape as an unfortunate disagreement instead of like the violent crime it is… Treating rape like an unfortunate but understandable miscommunication doesn’t just deny victims justice and downplay the traumatic nature of the experience — it allows rapists to remain free to rape again and again.
A campus truly dedicated to sexual violence prevention, Friedman says, would provide comprehensive education about sexuality and communication, would reframe consent as enthusiastic and participatory rather than the absence of “no”, would provide “bystander training” so that students could act to protect their friends and classmates, and would provide support for survivors and real consequences for perpetrators. As the school year starts, we would do well to consider Friedman’s vision and ask ourselves how we can create such a community at Carleton, or wherever we live or go to school.