When I was younger, my mother talked to me about sperm, eggs and how fertilization makes a baby. Being the junior scientist/future sex columnist that I was, I wondered about how the sperm found the egg. Did it have a map or something? This conversation made my mother uncomfortable, so we did not talk about it.
That is what people do; we avoid things that make us uncomfortable. That is why I avoid baked beans, Crocs and romantic comedies that star Katherine Heigl. Unfortunately, this is the same mindset that prevents us from discussing rape. I know most people find the word “rape” uncomfortable and so avoid talking about it. I would like to bring to light the fact that it is much more uncomfortable to be raped than it is to talk about it. I also know this does not make it any easier to talk about. I avoided telling anyone about my rape for too long and was not able to prosecute it as a result. But as long as rape happens, we are going to have to talk about it. And now is a good time to start.
According to oneinfourusa.org, “One in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime.” Seriously consider this for a moment: A female college student might have a better chance of not dying in a game of Russian Roulette than she does of not being raped. In a freshman suite (which usually contains seven people), two of those girls will likely be raped. In your lecture class in Javits 100, estimates would say that everyone is sitting in a room with approximately 100 possible victims of rape.
When many people think of rape, they imagine a woman in a short skirt being held up at gunpoint in a dark alley by a stranger who has not had sex in a while. Our minds tend to overlook the other scenarios that still constitute as rape. Surveys show that 60 percent of rape victims knew the person who attacked them. And in college, recreational drugs are often present in about 75 percent of college cases. You go out to a party with a friend whom you trust to take care of you and ends up taking advantage of you instead, and no one was wearing a short skirt.
To be explicitly clear, the federal law does not permit anyone who is under the influence of drugs to consent to sexual intercourse. This is not the kind of gray area in which you can make ridiculous statements like “But they really wanted to!” In fact, it is not a gray area at all. To those who would like to argue with me on this point and try to justify having sex with someone who has been drinking (or using any other kind of drug), I personally believe that you should be exiled to Antarctica in your bathing suit. But, since that does not happen because of our judicial system, the sexual exploitation of people under the influence should not happen either. A law for a law.
We all distance ourselves from the concept of rape. It is something that happens on “Law and Order,” not to people in my life. But if you really knew just how prevalent it is and just how many carry that burden in silence, you would be the one in silence. And yet, it is the victims who suffer alone and tell no one. You have all heard that one uber-feminist who argues against mascara and blowdryers as weapons of our male-dominated society also throw around the phrase “victim blaming.” You can never understand how deep-rooted this concept is until you have looked at yourself in the mirror after being raped and telling yourself “it was my fault.” I understand that a lot of this article is uncomfortable, but the more we discuss the issue and the more light we shed on it,the less these terrible things will exist in our society.
So I invite you all to join the discussion. If only we could all take advantage of Stony Brook’s cheap tuition instead of someone’s body.
You are absolutely right that we need to eliminate the stigma around discussing rape. However, I think organizations like the one you mentioned are going about this in the wrong way. The “1 in 4” statistic comes from a National Institute for Health study which used very controversial methods at the two campuses they surveyed. They counted attempted kissing as attempted rape and they also included all cases in which the sex involved even a tiny bit of alcohol. 70% of the women labelled as “rape survivors” by that study answered “no” to the question “are you a rape survivor”.