Address Sexual Assault, Not Drama

MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA

MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA

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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5 Comments

  1. Fact Check says:

    Anyone who writes “But ultimately, what is true and what is not true about Jackie’s story is not particularly important” needs to brush up on Journalism 101. It does matter, Kit.

  2. “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.”

    This is why people are increasingly not believing claims of rape on-campus . . . because the most publicized cases, (Duke Lacrosse, UVA’s Jackie, Emma the Mattress Girl at Columbia), which are meant to be examples of the supposed problem, all turn out to be hoaxes, and that once the fraud is revealed, people like you say, well, it’s a problem and at least we’re talking about it, without having the evidence it is an “epidemic” or “widespread” problem on-campus, just these frauds and the bogus 1 in 4 or 5 statistic that has been thoroughly discredited.

    ————

    Another thing: this was, in part, as you say, a journalistic failure, but more importantly, it was a hoax orchestrated by feminists in order to garner attention and resources, supposedly to address this supposedly problem, for which, it must be stated, the evidence doesn’t exist.

    ————

    “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?”

    While is true that one should know never to leave their laptop or Ipad unattended in a public or leave their car unlocked with the keys in the ignition in a high-crime area known for car thefts, why is it that these are the first defenses we turn to against theft rather than the simple reaffirmation that it is criminal to steal?

    ———-

    “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.”

    Just b/c a girl claims rape doesn’t mean an actual rape occurred, just that an allegation was made. Some for students accused of plagiarism. Plagiarists who are expelled are only done so after their case has been adjudicated in a University hearing. Students who you claim should be convicted criminals are likely still on-campus because the alleged victim never went to the police, or because the rape didn’t happen, or because the university hearing found that a sexual assault did not occur.

    BTW, if you’re so concerned that these students alleged to have committed a sexual assault be convicted of the crime and thrown off campus, why don’t you advocate for mandatory reporting of sexual assault and taking out of the hands of unqualified administrators the ability to adjudicate such issues, and let them be handled in the criminal system where they belong? If there is evidence for an arrest, the university has adequate justification to suspend the student and ban him or her from campus, and if convicted, actually expel the student.

    But be honest, what you would rather have is the opportunity for a less rigorous, and obviously biased campus process, to handle these matters. It’s much better than the legal system. After all, those who make fake rape allegations are committing a crime by lying to police and a judge and open themselves up to criminal charges and a civil suit. Defrauding the university is easier, consequence free, and false rape accusers can get kicked off campus any guy they want, especially if the man in question forgets her name the next day.

  3. Gender Equality says:

    While I admire your article, I do think you left something out of your essay that is commonly ignored in these types of conversations: sexual assault and rape is not exclusively a women’s issue. Although these actions predominantly affect women more than men, the fact that 1 out of 33 men will experience sexual assault in college means that they should be included in the conversation too. It has become taboo for men to come forward on this issue, but that doesn’t mean that we should forget about them. In giving a voice to women on this issue, men who have been afflicted are often forgotten, which means that they are not given the support they need. Let’s make sure that we start being inclusive regarding the issue of sexual assault!

  4. Niko Kostas says:

    I doubt the young men who were publicly humiliated, portrayed as rapists, vandalized, and kicked off of campus as a result of the article would characterize the lies in the story as “petty drama”, and they would probably disagree with your assertion that “what is true and what is not true about Jackie’s story is not particularly important”.
    What an incredibly insensitive, ignorant article.

  5. “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.”

    “Journalistic unprofessionalism” — how about libel? Accuracy is not a luxury. To say “well it DOES happen, so whether this accusation is fabricated actually makes no difference” — that is no way to achieve justice, for neither the men nor women involved (and for what it’s worth, I’m a woman).

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