Violence,rape, on college campuses as become prevalent in the last few decades or so. Itis used as a method of controlling women, who while inhabiting a predominantlymale sphere, reject patriarchal gender roles and expectations by existing inthe public sphere. Rather than assume that rape is just part of being a woman,the Take Back the Night movement can be seen as a feminist practice as it provideswomen a method of rejecting not only rape culture in public, but, also thepatriarchal structures within which it exists and allows women to exert theirown agency.
Women are forcing college officials to recognize campus rape byvocalizing issues of rape on campus and taking part in public demonstrations,such as Take Back the Night, and by publicizing rape cases on campuses acrossthe country and demanding justice for rape victims. Todiscuss campus rape, it is important to first provide a definition for rape andrape culture, in addition to, describing the ways in which it functions oncollege campuses. Women Against Violence Against Women, WAVAW, defines rapeculture as a, “complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggressionand supports violence against women… women perceive a continuum ofthreatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching torape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorismagainst women as the norm.
.. both men and women assume that sexualviolence is a fact of life, inevitable”. WAVAWprovides a working definition of rape culture which is necessary in order to beable to properly discuss campus rape. It assists in defining and highlightingspecifically which topics of rape will be discussed.
Rape culture rises from aform of toxic masculinity which exists in the patriarchy. It is, “the mechanism that channels toxicmasculinity into specific, socially legitimized practices of sexual violence” (Posadas178). In the patriarchy, men are able to establish their masculinity by demonstratingor committing acts of violence against women. This is because masculinity isdefined in terms of violence and sexual aggression, which normalizes violenceagainst women and their fear of rape or other forms of sexual assault. A man isexpected to have a large sexual appetite as part of their masculine identity.
Campusrape functions differently than other forms of rape which occur outside of thecollege atmosphere. On college campuses students become free to engage inalcohol use as there is little regulation. Many colleges don’t pay muchattention to it, however, it has been proven that on college campuses “alcohol use is a serious problem, andit is clearly implicated in the forms of sexual aggression” (Ward 71). In continuingwith alcohol in relation to campus rape, a “DOJstudy found that a whopping 75 percent of college rapes occurred when the victims or theassailants had been drinking” (Burleigh). Being drunk or unable to utter theword no does not mean yes. It is important to understand that the absence of a “no”does not equal the consent of a “yes” as is thought by many people in a rapeculture.
It is also important to discussthe varying kinds rape that occur on campus and labels them as date rape, partyrape, stranger rape, and acquaintance rape (Ward 66). These kinds of rape varydue to circumstances and relationships that exist between both parties involveda rape. In the patriarchy, womenare expected to submit to patriarchal gender roles as the child bearers and aremeant only to exist in private spaces. Women’s appearance in public spacesdemonstrates a form of deviance which in turn demonstrates to men that it isacceptable to rape women in public spaces, where public rape is a way throughwhich men can exert their masculinity and establish dominance over women.Withinmasculinity, and the patriarchy, there is deep seeded hatred for women.
Patriarchy demonstrates that in order for men to establish their masculinitythey need to demonstrate violence against women, rape. The patriarchy tells menthat it is their right to sleep with women, therefore women should not have achoice as to whether they want to sleep with men or not; they have no agencyover their bodies as men are the once who have complete control over them. Therefore,women, who for simply existing on college campuses, invade public spheres and traditionallymale dominated spaces, are seen as targets in a rape culture. Since colleges weretraditionally meant to be male only spaces, the appearance of women on themdemonstrates and evokes a sense of emasculation in men who are told, as part ofthe patriarchy and ideas of masculinity, that women need to be put back intheir place as members of the private sphere only. Additionally, as part ofbeing masculine is about being sexually experienced, the rape of women is seenas a part of this.
After raping a woman, a man can then go brag to his friendsabout his latest conquest, sexual encounter. For men, the more “bodies” youhave the better. The term “body” in this context refers to the women you haveslept with. This terminology further subdues women and objectifies them as itestablishes them as something which one can count and pile up as if they weren’tactual people. The women, the people behind these bodies are completely forgottenabout and ignored. While there has been growingnumbers of women telling their stories and actively speaking out about rape,college officials still remain unsure of what to do in response to anaccusation of rape.
Most often, little to no action is taken against rapists bycollege officials and the rapists are allowed to go free while those we wereraped often leave their universities and never see any justice. Rape culture on campus is demonstratedby the disregard by and response of college officials and professors to theongoing college campus rape crisis. College officials often ignore women’sconfessions of rape or other forms of sexual assault and tell them to simply”forget about it”. Campusand government response to rape have previously allowed many rapists to go freeby serving the minimum sentence or even less than the minimum. Cases regardingany kind of misconduct on college campuses are referred to the school boardwhich then decides the course of action which is to be taken. In the case ofrape, it is well known that “school disciplinary boards have rarely done a verygood job of handling these cases” (Goldberg 13).
Campus officials are notproperly equipped with how to handle these cases. Victims of sexual assault aretherefore further victimized by college officials as they are repeatedlyquestioned about the assault and their statements are doubted. In reflecting on her experience with theschool board regarding her rape, student Audrey Logan stated that, “‘Theadjudication board itself was one of the worst things I had to experience outsideof the actual assault, and in some ways, it was worse'” (Goldberg 13). Similarly,on an NPR show, Talk of the Nation, student Angie stated that her fourassailants didn’t really have to suffer any consequences. She said, “Two ofthem, they had them go on probation, but they allowed them to do it over thesummer…The other two were close to graduating. They were seniors…and so theywere allowed to go ahead and graduate”. It is the general feeling of rapevictims that School boards are much more “invested in protecting the school’sreputation than in seeking justice” (Goldberg 13). Colleges would much rather remain quiet inresponse to rape accusations, basically keeping themselves safe at a cost tothe student who has been raped.
It has been widely documented how rapists have receivedminimal, if any, sentencing in school- run proceedings. The process ofschool-run proceedings has been shown to take a toll of victims of sexualassault who often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and aremarginalized by school officials debating their cases. They’re made to feel asif they are liars or as if their rape doesn’t matter.
The entire process ofhaving the school board decide a punishment for rapists looks to be secretiveand confusing from the eyes of the victim. It doesn’t assist students indealing with their mental and emotional health after the rape, especially sincethey are not able to talk about it on their own terms and as a result have tohold back their emotions.