Yesterday, I read the Rolling Stone article about Rape Culture at the University of Virginia. I had been reluctant to read it (remember this) and finally got around to it last night. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend doing so.
It was, as I had expected, God awful. But what disturbed me even more than the events detailed was that I was largely unsurprised. I should have been horrified but my reaction was closer to, “Damn. Another one.”
I have not been raped. I made it through my three years of college with no negative sexual experiences at school or at home. However, I personally know several girls who have been. I didn’t attend UVA, but that doesn’t really matter. I advocate for counseling and reporting to the police and standing up to people who victim blame. But in my pursuit of reading response articles and letters to the Rolling Stone article, I came across one that horrified me. (http://www.the-declaration.org/?p=3329) I’ll be honest in that I read it because I trust the Facebook friend who posted it and that I know nothing about the author. But I know her opening line to be true:
Allow me to posit an argument: there is no such thing as “rape culture.” To assume that “rape culture” exists as an other outside of “normal culture,” is to ignore history, to ignore your lived-in world.
I was horrified not because she had been raped, or because you can hear her distrust and anger, but because she made me part of the problem.
I read several response articles and letters since I finished the Rolling Stone article. I was hungry for the reaction of my peers and the UVA community. But Rebecca’s article made me step back to examine my reaction. I had been hesitant to read the original article because I already knew, to a large extent, what it said. For a moment I even thought, “Man I wish those girls would report their experiences to the police”.
And then I thought, NO.
Because that train of thinking is part of the problem. Victim blaming doesn’t stop when you offer counseling. It stops when you adjust your advocacy to the problem and not the reaction.
“Change your thoughts and you change your world”- Norman Vincent Peale
So, in addition to supporting counseling and standing up to victim blaming, I’m going start my censure with myself.
If you are a victim of sexual assault and in need of help, please call the National Sexual Assault help line: