Society forces victims of rape into silence: Spinnaker Editorial of April 17

Spinnaker

Photo Illustration featured on the April 17 cover, by Randy Rataj / Spinnaker. Model: Margaret Dodds
Photo Illustration featured on the April 17 cover, by Randy Rataj / Spinnaker. Model: Margaret Dodds

There’s a news story this week about a topic nobody wants to discuss: rape.

And that’s the issue — especially for the victims. There’s a quiet, underlying stigma of victim blaming that flows through society by way of several channels: the media, whispers of slut-shaming, and frustrations of a legal system that doesn’t want to believe that young men are capable of such heinous crimes.

Think that’s all a bunch of nonsense? Chew on these numbers: only one count of sexual battery has been reported to UPD in four years. The UNF Women’s Center Victim Advocacy Program has helped 62 UNF students who said they were victims of sexual assault.

Here’s our best guess why: shame. The advocacy program offers victims a safe, quiet, confidential place in which they can come to terms with the trauma they’ve been through. Going to law enforcement is a different experience; it’s less personal by nature. Women who go through the process of a rape kit, which is used to collect forensic evidence after sexual assault, have described it as a traumatic experience. Even if it’s for the best, most women don’t seek to be questioned, prodded and scraped after what could be the worst moment of their lives.

 Most rape victims are women, and society is reminding them that their safety is in their own hands. Recently, a lesbian comedian made a joke about how she still takes the pill: “It’s like, well, sometimes I like to dress slutty. And apparently I have to take responsibility for that … if you read the news, listen to the comments — a woman’s body is like a bad neighborhood. You’ve gotta expect a break-in. The pill’s like contents insurance.”

It’s a funny joke, but the reality is sobering. Society doesn’t turn its disgust toward the assailants, it turns it toward the victims. Imagine, after being raped, if you were told it was your fault. Why did you drink so much? Why did you walk home in the dark? Why did you go to a party with people you didn’t know? Why didn’t you wear a longer dress?

Why did you make that guy rape you?

It’s as if rape is so terrible and disgusting it’s too awful to admit that anyone would actually do that on purpose. It can’t be true that a man would completely disregard a woman’s consent and use her body — especially not if it’s a nice young man in college.

There’s something we can do to change this. UNF must continue to support and cultivate victim advocacy. Events like the Mock Rape Trial  and Walk a Mile have begun that mission.

But it’s more important that we change our frame of mind. Responsibility doesn’t simply lie with potential victims keeping their wits about them, but in a respectful, clear-minded approach to sex.

Summer break approaches. By all means, go forth and party. Meet a special someone, have sex. But make sure neither of you will have regrets in the morning.