Victim Blaming: Enough is enough
Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 22:10
In light of recent events, I think it is imperative that we discuss the significant impact of rape culture on our society—in particular, on our college campus. Within the past year, we have seen the university ignore the cries of sexual assault victims, and even become known for the flippant response to rape itself. It was only a few days ago that a performer rapped about the infamous “rape trail” on the UConn campus, only to have students respond enthusiastically to him. What does it say about our university, that we would react with such glee to such a terrible moniker?
Rape culture dictates that rape itself has less to do with the assailant and more to do with the victim—the victim is usually described as being the one who is to blame, instead of the assailant. Victims are commonly seen as being at fault because of their clothing, previous interactions with their assailants (which may or may not have been positive), as well as the idea that a verbal ‘no’ is the only requirement for sexual assault. However, the requisite for consensual sex is verbal, enthusiastic agreement to coitus—one that cannot be given if the person in question is intoxicated, unsure, afraid of disagreeing, or gives any indication that they are uncomfortable with proceeding to have sex.
There seems to be an unfortunate habit of victims not getting the help that they seek. Carolyn Luby, who became infamous last year for her rejection of the new aggressive UConn mascot, was sent threatening emails and sexually harassed to the point where she felt unsafe on campus, only to be told to simply wear a hat and lie low. More recently, Kylie Angell’s assaulter was allowed back on campus after making an appeal. Angell was also insulted by the campus police, who employed the age-old habit of victim-blaming (HuffingtonPost’s direct quote that was used: “Women need to stop spreading their legs like peanut butter or rape is going to keep on happening ‘til the cows come home”). In what world would that be appropriate to say within hearing of a trauma victim, whether or not it was directly addressed to her, especially from those that are meant to protect us all?
Luby’s fearful premonition that the mascot would only promote more aggression and ambivalence towards rape seems to ring true. What is worse is that the students don’t appear to realize just what their responses mean, and how much weight they carry. A commenter on Huffington Post’s article on the Timeflies concert indignantly responded that “to condemn us for a three second response to a rap lyrics is ridiculous.” However, I believe that to not analysis our responses is to insult us all—we are all intelligent members of society, capable of knowing what is right and what is wrong, and of knowing why we support what we do. If cheering in response to the “rape trail” is not indicative of student support of flippancy towards rape, then what is it?