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Give no ground

Tiny Steubenville, Ohio, was home to a trial that made rape culture an item of worldwide discussion. (Photo supplied)
Tiny Steubenville, Ohio, was home to a trial that made rape culture a part of worldwide discussion. (Photo supplied)

Rape. The word itself probably makes you cringe. The act itself violates a person, and just hearing the very word can make us shudder. It’s a taboo topic, it’s awkward and it’s not a pretty side of human nature. But it happens and it’s here and the more we ignore it, the more we perpetrate the crime.

In the wake of the Steubenville, Ohio rape cases, rape has been on my mind a lot recently. These two boys, seen as the heroes of their high school (all-American athlete types) who have fallen from grace, have been viewed by some as tragic because they have ruined their futures. This view disgusts me.

The real tragedy in this situation is that no one ever taught these boys a moral code that would have shown them that what they did was a violent, inhumane, indecent act. The fact that this girl was made to feel guilty for coming forward and telling the truth about what these boys did to her when she was so drunk that she couldn’t even remember, is a disgusting result of an even uglier act.

This event proves we live in a society where some people can’t even identify rape if it happens before their very eyes. To catch you up to speed: this girl went to a party, had far too much to drink and woke up to social media footage of these boys sexually assaulting her. Witnesses had taped it on cell phones, then deleted it, because they were unsure whether “digitally raping” (I think most of us would know this as “fingering”) this girl constituted rape. Others said they were unsure whether she was too out of it to be giving oral sex, which the boys had her perform, because they didn’t know how drunk she was. Nobody helped her. Even though they were unsure whether these were consensual acts, nobody even stepped in; instead, they treated her like a monkey in the zoo, taking pictures.

What do we even do with that? We need to start openly discussing this topic─in particular with men, as it is a crime more commonly perpetrated by males against females. We teach people how not to get raped (rape whistles, watching your drink at the bar, not walking home alone), but why is there less effort spent on educating people not to rape? How many times has it been reported that authority figures like cops have told rape victims that if they hadn’t been wearing this outfit or hadn’t had this much to drink, they wouldn’t have been raped? We have instilled a sense of guilt onto women, making them believe that if they had acted another way or dressed another way, this would not have happened, meaning the fact that they got raped was partially their fault. OK, pause. Can we see the errors in this way of thinking?

Efforts have been taken at Dalhousie to help prevent attacks. Dal offers rides home for students late at night and posters around the school tell us that “Just because she isn’t saying no, doesn’t mean she’s saying yes” with pictures of drunk girls passed out on couches. Is that enough?

As students living in a city with one of the highest sexual assault rates in Canada, it surprises me that there are not more preventative measures being taken. Bars over-serve and the buses stop running around midnight (which is *not* most students’ bedtime). What else can be done to make these situations safer?

Sexual education in schools should include being educated on the fact that rapists are not necessarily creepy guys in ski-masks who wait to follow girls home from the bar. Just because someone doesn’t put something in your drink, doesn’t mean it’s your fault if someone takes advantage of your having too much to drink. Both men and women should know that it is more likely to be a friend, a mutual friend or a boyfriend who will be able to take advantage of you in this capacity.

It must be enforced that the lines of consent are drawn in permanent marker. If a anyone is not completely sure that their partner is consenting (including whether they are sober enough to know what is going on) then they should not be doing this. That’s rape, even without the ski-mask.

We need to start talking about rape. As a society we need to know what constitutes rape, identifying the perpetrator in these scenarios. We need end the statistic that 97 per cent of rapists walk the streets without persecution. Where does this leave their victims? Too scared to report for fear of the negative repercussions and spending the rest of their days trying to protect themselves from the rapists who have not been taught what they’re doing is wrong.

Rape. Don’t be afraid of the word: be afraid of what not talking about it perpetuates.

 

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