‘Rape culture’ invades college campuses
Look down. Shut up. Swallow your anger. Swallow your tears and keep going.
Does it ring a bell, ladies? This is what you do when someone calls you “sexy,” “slut” or asks you to smile. This is what you do when someone is putting his hands on you. After all, it is your fault; why are you wearing a skirt? You decided to dress up nicely, so it is normal for you to get some attention.
But it is not. Our appearance or the way we act should never lead to sexual comments or aggression.
Unfortunately, in today’s society when sexual harassment or aggression occurs, the victim is often blamed—and blames herself—more than the aggressor, whose behavior is often normalized and excused by the media and popular culture. We have all heard that “she was asking for it,” or “she should have been more careful,” or “I was drunk,” or “boys will be boys,” or “he did not mean it,” or “but he comes from such a good family,” or “it’s none of my business.” The list goes on.
This is rape culture. It is everywhere in our society: in the street, on college campuses, in the media, in advertising, in songs and in sitcoms such as “South Park,” “Family Guy,” and “Whitney,” to cite a few.
“Our society is set up where we blame the victims more than we do the perpetrators because it is easier that way,” said UALR Counselor Aresh Assadi. “And it is hard to admit when we are out of control.”
Amy Muse, another UALR counselor, agreed with Assadi’s notions of blaming the victim. “Criticizing and blaming others help us to feel more powerful,” she said.
Women are raped more often than men, with 1 out of every 5 American women reporting being a victim of sexual assault, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. However, this does not mean it is only a women’s issue.
“It is everyone’s issue,” Assadi said, “because we all have daughters, sisters mothers.”
Muse said, “I can’t stand up in front of a bunch of guys and say, ‘Hey guys, we have been living in a rape culture, all of us are participating in this and we can do a lot to change it.’ It goes much better when Assadi is there and uses a ‘man language.’”
“In our society, there is the idea that men cannot control themselves because they are driven by their penises,” Muse said. “And that it is the woman’s responsibility to make sure she is safe because men cannot be trusted. I think men should be offended by this. They need to stand up for themselves.”
Assadi agreed. “The more they say they are not OK with it, the better and more proactive it would be,” he said.
Rape culture is still a stigmatized, sensitive and uncomfortable subject to talk about, nonetheless it is a subject that must be discussed.
“If people knew more about rape culture, it would be easier for them to understand that there is a problem in our society,” Muse said.
“For instance, if a girl [was] drunk and passed out on the couch with drunk guys around her, it is [considered] more OK for them to sexually assault her. But flip it around. If a drunk guy is passed out on the couch, is it OK to stick things inside him?” she said.
It is thus important to inform people, especially the young generation, about rape culture and help them realize it is not OK to dehumanize women and treat them like objects.
“UALR does a good job talking about this issue,” Assadi said. “We have the Green Dot Program, which is about creating a safe campus environment through the power of community, as well as defense training given by the UALR police and workshops.”
Indeed, the university holds different events throughout the year to address these issues. For instance, during the fall, the traditional “Welcome Week” is followed by “Campus Safety” week, also known as “See Something, Say Something” week. During this week, UALR partners with the campus police to address various kinds of violence and give guidance on how to stay safe.
The university also hosts the Trojan War event, where students learn about “sex-positive culture,” which involves creating healthy sexual communication, knowing the difference between passive, aggressive, and assertive communications, setting boundaries, and knowing how to be safe and prevent pregnancy.
“UALR will not tolerate sexual assault in any form—including sexual harassment and rape—or encourage, aid, or assist in the commission of this offense,” Vice Chancellor Logan Hampton said. “We take this issue very seriously. Victims are heard, investigations are done and are not taken lightly.”
Once a sexual offense is reported to campus police, investigations are done, apart from the criminal justice investigation, and disciplinary actions, ranging from a warning to a definitive expulsion, are made. The decision is made on the preponderance of evidence, but whether or not the accused is found responsible, UALR authorities still refer the victims to counseling.
“Even if there is not enough evidence to prove it, sexual assault has consequences, and the university is sensitive to it. We want to help the victims and restore them in the community,” Hampton said.
Sexual assault has lifetime consequences such as feeling of guilt, anxiety, fear and depression. “I have a lot of people coming in my office whose assault did not happen recently or on campus,” Assadi said.
“Women blame themselves even long after it happened, saying ‘It’s my fault,’ ‘I should not have [gotten] drunk,’ or ‘I should not have gone in the car with him,’” Muse said.
Rape culture not only affects rape survivors but all women. Rape culture says that if a woman says yes all the time, then men can assume she will say “yes” to them. Rape culture says that if a woman said “no” but did not leave, then she did not really mean “no”. Rape culture says that a woman is misleading men by wearing short skirts or tight clothes. Rape culture excuses, forgives and victimizes rapists.
Rape culture is all around us and needs to stop. No one deserves to be raped. There is never an excuse for it to be accepted.
Rape culture needs to be replaced by a consent culture where we teach at an early age that everybody’s word should be respected, especially concerning one’s body and personal space.
If you have been sexually assaulted you can contact:
- Department of Public Safety at 501-569-3400
- Health Services at 501-569-3188
- Counseling Services at 501-569-3185
- Dean of Students at 501-569-3328