Every break since this November, I dread a certain conversation my household is bound to bring up — the December 2014 “A Rape on Campus” story published by Rolling Stone.
I don’t dread this discussion because I’m scared of talking about sexual assault, but because I’m scared of what other people, mainly my own family members who I love dearly, might have to say about it.
In truth, I have found myself physically pained and emotionally exhausted by the amount of astonishing and, honestly, moronic comments that I have heard so many educated people say about sexual assault since the publication of that story and the nationwide conversation it sparked.
Mostly, I am frustrated with the general population’s obsession with the drama of the egregiously misreported story by Rolling Stone.
But ultimately, what is true and what is not true about Jackie’s story is not particularly important — what is important is that, more than anything, this article has brought sexual assault on campus to the national stage and reminded us of how concerning this problem truly is.
Even without Jackie’s story, the article cites many other instances of women who faced sexual assault and its aftermath during their time at the university.
While the veracity of these claims is questionable, they nevertheless indicate that, although countless women nationwide have spoken out against the failing federal and university laws in place for dealing with cases of sexual assault, many more are still silent and demonstrate that we as a country still fail to discuss these issues truthfully and honestly with each other.
We must collectively learn to overcome the petty drama of this one unfortunate and embarrassing journalistic failure that is drowning out all the true stories and important conversations to be had about sexual assault.
It is time for us to stop blaming sexual assault on circumstance. How many times have I heard sexual assault blamed on alcohol, drugs or victims wearing revealing clothing? The fault in sexual assault lies nowhere but with the perpetrator and the evil that propelled them to commit such a crime.
While it is true that certain circumstances can exacerbate situations of sexual assault, we are too quick to misdirect the blame to the usual scapegoats rather than focus on the real issue at hand.
We need to refocus the way we present sexual assault to others, especially to youth.
It is despicable that many educational programs focus on the circumstances in which many sexual assaults occur rather than focus on defining sexual assault and how to appropriately ask for and define consent.
While it is true that one should know never to leave a drink unattended or walk home alone, why is it that these are the first defenses we turn to against sexual assault rather than the simple reaffirmation that it is criminal to drug another or follow someone home?
Why, as a woman, is it safer to give someone a fake phone number than turn someone down? Why did I learn to avoid wearing certain types of clothing, lest someone get what is commonly referred to as “the wrong idea?” Instead, why didn’t others just learn to respect women and their decisions?
In order to fight the sad reality of sexual assault, which has not subsided, but continues to plague our schools nationwide with so few consequences, the dialogue needs to change.
The fact that cries of fire and journalistic unprofessionalism are louder and paid more attention than cries of rape can no longer be the accepted norm.
I refuse to allow it to be the norm that plagiarists are expelled from universities while sexual assailants who should be convicted criminals are allowed to stay because nobody speaks up or nobody deals out an appropriate punishment.
We must fight this problem with proactivity, equality and, most of all, honesty. That students who have assaulted their peers enjoy the same resources, opportunities and learning experiences as their victims is the real failure.
I urge universities to create first-year programs that educate students on sexual assault to address the dearth of action taken against this issue.
It is time we guide and restructure this conversation in a productive manner rather than continue the antifeminist and disappointing tone it has taken.
Kit Clemente is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and a member of The Hoya’s Editorial Board.
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