April 20, 2007

A step away from saying rape victims "deserved it"?

Earlier this week, Lucy Caldwell issued a call for "caution in judgment" when discussing issues of sexual violence. [warning: this article may be triggering for some due to implied and explicit statements blaming rape victims for their rapes.]

Caldwell cautions that much of sexual violence prevention work should recognize that "preventing sexual violence hinges on sexual responsibility." See, when I removed that sentence from its context, it sounds highly uncontroversial. In fact, it sounds true. In fact, it is true. If everyone took responsibility for their own sexual and violent actions then rape cold be prevented. Potential rapists have the ability to prevent 100% of rapes. All that we need to do is to convince people not to rape each other! Caldwell seems like a genius.

Oh wait, then when you look at the rest of the article, you might realize that that is not what she is discussing at all. Caldwell continues to equate what she sees as women's bad sexual decision making with other women's accusations of rape. She says, "The most effective way for a woman to “take back the night” is to take control of her sexual behavior." In a way, I agree, but not the way Caldwell meant it. Women should have control of their own sexual behavior. As soon as men stop raping women, perhaps they will have it. (and everyone else needs to stop raping everyone else, as well). See, in order for people to take control of their own lives, others need to stop violently imposing themselves on others without consent. People need to be able to walk down the street or have a drink at a party without being targeted by sexual predators. Then, women can have control of their own bodies, decisions, and autonomy in a way that Caldwell's opinion fails to recognize.

I am glad that the sexual violence movement takes this week in order to support survivors/victims, their families, and their friends. But in general, we would do well to not allow the perpetrators out of the discussion. Rape doesn't just happen. Caldwell, you can bring up all of the questionable cases in which you think that someone might want to falsely report a rape but that doesn't change the fact that thousands of people actually are raped, or, as it should be put, thousands of people (mostly men) rape thousands of other people (mostly women).

Just because one guy falsely reported his car stolen as part of an insurance fraud scheme doesn't mean we don't believe people when they report their cars stolen. Let's get over talking about the exceedingly small proportion of falsely reported rapes just because it's more comfortable than thinking about the real rapes that do happen every day. Rape is painful to think about, painful to talk about, and painful to try to prevent. But you know what? It's painful to experience, too. It's disservice to our peers not to take rape seriously.

I recommend reading two letters to the editor from this morning's crimson. They are much more articulate than what I just wrote:
here's one
here's the other.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How was the campus reaction to this editorial?