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Rape Victims Take the Blame

Ruiz deconstructs the aftermath of sexual assault and highlights the injustice of victims held responsible for the crimes of their attackers.

Today I was disheartened to read about another sexual assault on our campus. In my three years at Rollins College, I would have to say that the number of reported rapes on this campus are on the rise. This scares me and it should scare you. Rape is one of the, if not the, most atrocious crimes that occurs. Here are a few scary things to think about:

  • According to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, the first two weeks on a college campus are the statistically most likely in a woman’s life where she is likely to be raped.
  • According to a government report from the United Kingdom, anywhere between 75 to 95 percent of rapes go unreported.
  • According to the National Institute of Justice, 1 in 4 women survive rape.
  • According to the British Medical Journal, 3 percent of reported rapes are reported by male survivors.
  • According to the Journal of Social Issues, 99 percent of reported rapes are done by men, 60 percent by Caucasians.

But the conversation around rape is one that is pointed at the survivors of sexual assault. Our culture has taught us that what a person wears, the alcohol they have consumed, and past sexual experiences are all get out of jail free cards for rapists.

I’m here to say these reasons are not valid. One of the statistics above says that 99 percent of reported rapes are committed by men. If that is the case, why is the responsibility put upon women to protect themselves? We should be talking to men. We should be talking about the link between masculinity and violence. According to the Urban Institute, most perpetrators of violent crimes are men. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, most reported rapes are committed by men. But we have centered the conversation of sexual violence on women. I say it is up to us as educated college students to change the conversation both on our campus and in our world.

Let’s start with the basics. Consent is a sober, firm, consistent, and continuous yes. Alcohol precludes consent. Just because a person has consented to sex with you before does not mean you have consent in the future. A provocative outfit is not consent. If you have started having sex and person says no, stop. This means they have revoked consent.

What is slut shaming? According to Urban Dictionary, it is an unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a person because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot, or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity. I would expand this to include the clothes a person is wearing. This is what happens when you see that girl in a dress you think is a little too scandalous and call her slut.

This is also what happens when you hear about a person getting raped and say that, “She was asking for it.” In doing this we put the act of committing a rape away from the rapists and onto the survivors of sexual assault.

Rape is an atrocious crime. It is an act of violence which stays with a survivor for years to come. It makes it harder to become intimate with individuals. It is life altering. But we as a community can be a support for survivors of sexual assault. Let’s talk about consent, watch our language, be willing to intervene for others when we see some sketchy behavior. Move the conversation about rape away from survivors and towards rapists and potential rapists.

To the survivors who read this, I am sorry that I even have to write this. You are all strong, amazing individuals. You are worthy. You are loved. I stand with you as both a survivor and an ally.

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