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Quick Hit: Combating the Campus Rape Crisis

September 10, 2009

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.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill permalink
    September 10, 2009 10:26 PM

    Via a couple of other posts on this, two lists of helpful hints to prevent rape, one more somber, one more tongue in cheek.

  2. September 13, 2009 10:33 PM

    THIS. If only my college had provided some kind of bystander training rather than giving us “rape whistles”. Campus security had no idea how to talk to a rape survivor – while they were taking the report they kept saying “so you and this young man were getting intimate and…”, “what happened after this young gentleman had sex with you?”, etc. even after being corrected every time. Counselors supposedly trained to deal with “crisis situations” that talk to a survivor for 10 minutes and tell her to come back in 2 weeks.

    Don’t even get me started on how you should NOT go to a hospital affiliated with your college for a rape exam (forgive me but I don’t know the PC term for that) – it is legal in some if not all states for a doctor to deny a rape kit based on whether they believe a rape occurred or not (generally it is only with mentally ill patients who come to the ER literally every day that they will decide not to do a kit, otherwise they err on the side of caution to avoid lawsuit) – and parents (i.e., benefactors) don’t want to hear about that kind of thing. Conflict of interest much? And without a rape kit, good luck talking to the police. Without the rape kit? Good luck talking to a lawyer about not being able to talk to the police.

    The “system” most colleges have in place to deal with the prevention and aftermath of sexual assaults is ridiculously pathetic. They do everything they can to pretend it didn’t happen so they can come out of it smelling like roses, with no thought whatsoever of the survivors. After surviving assault and going to the places you’re told to – campus security, the emergency room, student health center/counseling – and being let down by the system each and every time, that adds so much more to the trauma.

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