Dear Mr. or Mrs. President,
I would like to address the issue of rape justice throughout our country in this letter. There are many misconceptions about the causes of rape that, unfortunately, are commonly viewed as the truth and criminalizing rape victims, claiming that “they were asking for it”. These blatantly wrong, and frankly, quite disturbing, rumors are evident in the reactions of college authorities that manage rape reports. In colleges, students who are raped and choose to report the instance confide in their school counselors or deans, hoping for a response that will provide them with safety and justice. Instead, they are bombarded with questions betraying an accusatory tone; “What were you wearing? How were you acting? Were you flirting? Did you say no? How many times did you say no? How did you say no? Were you drunk?”
The first, and probably most common, lie spread about the cause of rape is that how someone is dressed (usually dealing with female victims) is a valid reason for them being raped. This, of course, is ridiculous; clothing is not equal to consent. No matter how revealing someone’s clothes are, rape is still illegal, and self control is still possible. Also, the fact that young children, completely undeveloped, and people wearing extremely modest clothes, are often victims of rape. In the case of children, there is nothing they could be revealing via immodest clothing; they are, as I previously stated, undeveloped. Was the nightdress of Erika Monroe, raped in 1988 at age ten so violently that she needed surgery after being kidnapped from her home by a stranger, too short? Was the sight of her knees, scabbed from the day’s play, too sexually appealing to refrain from raping her? No, I think not. There are several instances in which young adults are raped while wearing baggy jeans and a crew-cut, loose t-shirt. Was even showing their face “asking for it”? If so, what about the women dressed by the code of their religion, often showing nothing but their eyes, not even revealing their ankles, being raped? As you can see, the argument that how a victim dresses allows for the actions of a rapist is completely invalid.
Another popular untruth about the cause of rape is that flirtatious behavior of a victim equates to consent, and therefore validates their rape. First of all, there are many cases in which the victim was not flirting in any way; in one specific instance, two female students at Harvard University, Kamilah Willingham and a friend, went to a bar with their close male friend of two years. About a half hour in, Kamilah’s friend was acting completely drunk, even though she hadn’t consumed enough alcohol to cause such a reaction; this was the first red flag in Kamilah’s mind. The three of them caught a taxi back home, but as soon as they entered, Kamilah felt an extremely heavy feeling come over her, and by the end of the ten minute drive back, both girls were unconscious; they had been drugged by their male friend. He carried them into his apartment and raped both of them while they were unconscious. Kamilah awoke to find her male friend on top of her, attempted to fight him off, but was unable to as he weighed over 200 pounds and she was still coming to. There was no flirting, no dancing, and yet, these two young women were drugged by someone they trusted, then raped while unconscious. Child rape and cases in which the victim is kidnapped or unconscious disprove the rumor that flirtatious actions do not cause rape. Overall, nothing whatsoever makes rape okay, seeing as it’s illegal and blatantly wrong, but these reasons display how flirting does not validate the actions of a rapist or cause rape, as rape still occurs without flirting.
Many people believe that consent is possible for an intoxicated person; this is false because, when intoxicated, nobody is able to think normally, and therefore can’t properly make important decisions such as consent to sex. When drunk or high, people aren’t themselves, and may attempt to participate in activities they would have never even considered in a sober state of mind. Having sex with an intoxicated person if you are sober is, in fact, rape, because they cannot properly give their consent.
As mentioned earlier, counselors and deans ask accusatory questions rather than help victims reporting in an attempt to serve justice. For example, Iman Stenson, a student at University of California, was asked when she tried to report, “Did you say no? How many times did you say no? How did you say it?” Such questions are actually irrelevant to the validation of the report, and are only attempts to discourage reports in order to protect the reputation of schools. If someone does not explicitly consent to sex, they are saying no; this should be common knowledge, but evidently remains unknown to many. In addition, in many cases of rape, the victims are unable to say anything at all, and therefore can’t express their distress. Two of the instances viewed in the documentary “The Hunting Ground”, the cases of Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, both students at the University of North Carolina, were raped after their heads were slammed against walls. In Pino’s case, she was dragged to a bathroom, grabbed by the side of her head, and slammed repeatedly against the tile. She says about her traumatizing experience, “you just stay there and hope you don’t die, and that’s what I was hoping, that I had more than just twenty years to live.” The young woman was so paralyzed by fear, praying that her life wouldn’t be ended, that she physically couldn’t say “no”. The fact that she was forced to the bathroom and was violently beaten should have been evidence enough of her lack of consent, but apparently, such things were meaningless to her attacker and the dean she reported to. Therefore, the reaction of the victim in terms of attempting to get the rapist to stop can’t be used to validate the rapist’s actions.
Clark didn’t report her rape for an extended period of time, as she was so shaken by the instance, and it started to affect her mentally; when she finally did confide in a dean about the situation, the older woman compared her rape to a football game and asked her, “if you look back on the game, what would you do differently in that situation?” The student had physically fought off her rapist and ran after the assault, but beforehand was dragged out of a party and had her head slammed against a wall. She obviously had no control over the situation, so how could she have done anything differently? Since Clark didn’t do anything to cause her rape in the first place, how could she have possibly adjusted her actions to prevent her own rape? The answer is that she couldn’t have; it wasn’t her fault. However, the accusatory questions school authorities ask of reporting victims rather than dealing with the actual problem place the blame upon these victims and teach victims not to get raped instead of teaching rapists not to rape.
There are also the rumors that males don’t get raped. Men are actually victims of rape just as often as women, but because of society’s expectations of men to be strong, impenetrable, invincible beings that classify as immortal, they tend to not report being raped, so their stories go unheard. Ryan Clifford reported his rape at University of Southern California and was told to drop out until everything blew over instead of being helped. Just like it would be for a girl, a man who was raped feels vulnerable, weak, unsafe. This standard barrier is truly saddening, and perpetuates rape culture.
The refusal of deans and counselors to help reporting victims at colleges, the many myths about the causes of rape, and the tolerance for disgusting comments and talk all contribute to the perpetuation of rape culture by putting the blame on victims, silencing them, which protects rapists. In colleges, most victims are discouraged from reporting; when Kamilah Willingham reported her rape, the dean told her, “I just want to make sure, above all else, that you don’t talk to anyone else about this.” Schools are far more concerned with their reputations than the safety of their students. Kesha tried to speak out about her rape, but was denied in court and forced to continue working with her rapist. Current presidential candidate Donald Trump was portrayed in a disturbingly gross video in which he spoke about not being able to refrain from kissing beautiful women, how they couldn’t fight back, and how they should be grabbed by their genitalia. Many obscenities and disgusting slang phrases escaped his mouth. The allowance of such disregard for basic human rights to go undealt with, especially in someone attempting to become the leader of this country, allows for the continuation of rape culture in our society.
Not only do the causes of rape remain a mystery to many, but the effects as well. Overall, being raped destroys a person’s self-confidence, any sense of safety they may have previously housed, makes them feel vulnerable and violated. They often enter a state of depression, which can affect their will and even lead to suicide. Anxiety develops more often than not. PTSD is also a large part of the aftermath, increasing the lack of trust, causing nightmares, and if a woman is impregnated via rape and not permitted an abortion, the presence of the child may remind her of what happened to cause its existence, worsening the effects of PTSD. Those who try to speak out are often not believed, are shunned by society, and have to deal with that loneliness. If hurt badly enough, victims may be maimed for life or even die of injuries.
As you can see, rape is a significant issue in our country. The injustice and misconceptions help keep it that way. My hope is that you, as the next leader of our country, can help spread awareness and promote justice.