December 11, 2014

Reviewing Rape Culture on College Campuses

Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault

A blog piece published on the SASC website on April 24, 2014 titled “Rape Culture: Real or Fake” did an excellent job addressing the very important and very serious issues with what was said by the (ignorant) author of the article “Is there an epidemic of rape culture at Canadian universities”. In that article, the author, Brian Hutchinson, says there is no such thing as rape culture and such a thing, according to him, certainly doesn’t permeate university and college campuses around North America.  Well Hutchinson clearly is a prime example of male privilege, someone who doesn’t have to worry about getting assaulted, catcalled, threatened, raped and killed by just existing.  Rape culture exists everywhere, in all of society, including college and university campuses.

Columbia student, Emma Sulkowicz, started a movement on her university campus, when in September she started carrying her dorm mattress around with her everywhere to remind everyone that her rapist is still living on campus and is free to attend school without consequences. Previously she had filed a complaint against him after finding out that he had also assaulted two other women. After a hearing that took seven months after she reported the case, her rapist lied and the panellists decided that he wasn’t guilty. All three cases against him were dismissed.

This happens over and over and over again. If the perpetrator doesn’t go free (which a very high number of the ones who are reported do), they are portrayed sympathetically. “Oh he had such a bright future ahead” and “poor guy now his future is ruined” are all commonly heard by everyone from personal relationships to news channels. This mentality of feeling bad for the perpetrator for what they did wrong, and not the survivors for what they had to go through, what they are still going through, and then hearing this kind of sentiment is very dangerous and harmful and sets a bad precedent for future cases. 

This blog piece doesn’t even touch on how women of colour are treated with stigma and are at a higher risk of getting sexually assaulted and being failed at every turn by the justice system and society. 1 in 3 aboriginal women are likely to get raped at least once in their lifetime. 1 in 2 experience sexual violence other than rape.  Stephen Harper has outright refused to call an inquiry into the missing persons reports of more than 1000 murdered or missing aboriginal women. There have been numerous cases of black women  and sex trade workers getting raped by cops and people in positions of power. White women at least have a chance of getting some justice (though we know this is still very little). Black women get shot and assaulted by those in positions of power and aboriginal women apparently don’t even exist in the eyes of the “justice system”.

As students we are a part of an education system that treats plagiarism as a worse crime than sexual assault and I am tired and fed up of little being done on college campuses to end this epidemic. 

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