A UVA Student Reflects


When the Rolling Stone story about the UVA rape came out, I wrote a post. There were a lot of opinions floating around, and it seemed to be the best way to express my opinion and offer it for others to read, discuss, or ignore. This blog has been an outlet for the thoughts that are constantly circulating in my head. A way for me to organize and gain clarity. It took me a long time before I showed it to my friends and even longer to show my family, but I eventually realized it gives insight into what I’m thinking on occasions when I can’t vocally express myself. So when I wrote that piece last November, it was just a way of me letting people know my thoughts.

The internet had other intentions. I was soon bombarded with notifications. I saw my post spreading like wildfire across social media and started receiving notice of a sizeable number of comments on the blog itself . Friends, family, and strangers a like were all using my words as a part of their forum. And a lot of it was quite demeaning. All opinions are welcome in my comment section, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hurt. Revisiting these words didn’t appeal to me (being compared to a gang of rapists isn’t exactly a confidence builder.) So when an investigation revealed the whole story was fabricated as part of a larger scheme, I thought about adding an update, but I found it hard to go back. When the Stanford rape case went viral, I again thought of revisiting my previous post, but settled for a separate one. I’ve marinated in my thoughts on the subject for a while now, and I’ve decided there’s more I want to say, and more that I think needs to be heard.

When the Rolling Stone article was published, many people immediately realized it was false. A lot of the details didn’t make sense, especially in the context of UVA. There was a lot of discussion pointing this out. I purposefully steered clear of that, attempting to focus specifically on the impact of the article on the UVA community and on progress in the system. I did this because I knew that while Jackie’s story was suspect and likely false, there were hundreds more like hers that were true. Some of them even told to me by friends.

I discuss the need for policy reform and the crucial nature of community support in my other piece, so I won’t get into that here. I stand by those words, though they may have been brief and somewhat incomplete. If you are lost in this, catch up here: A UVA Student Responds. There are countless articles that are more articulate and researched than I could ever be on the subject, so I will leave that up to you to seek out.
In reflecting on the past events lately, I’ve been digging deeper into the catalyst for these circumstances, and I’ve come to some conclusions. The more I see and read the news, and hear about everything going on in the world, the more I take in everything that goes on across social media platforms, the more these conclusions are confirmed. I hope this revisit to previous things is worthwhile.

I believe that underlying all of these things is misunderstanding, and an erroneous value system. To read about the misunderstanding, read my post in response to the Stanford Rape case: Rape is Rape. I’m still fairly solid on what I’ve written there, and don’t feel the need to edit or explain any more than I already have.

Let’s get into the erroneous value system.

Every society defines value, and almost every aspect of life is based around that value system. And in almost every society today (I can’t think of an exception, but I could be wrong. Point it out and I will probably go there!) value isn’t fixed. It’s relative. And this is inherent in any value system. The entire purpose of giving value to something is as a reference point. Its how humans think. The way we keep ourselves oriented and make decisions is by constantly comparing what we are perceiving to existing archetypes based on data gathered during previous experiences. If there isn’t a previous experience to hang on to, we are uncomfortable. We pull from whatever is closest, note differences, and form new archetypes. This thought process could be its own discussion, but I’ll leave it here for now, though I’d be happy to further discuss with anyone.

This constant comparison drives everything from racial stereotypes to the financial system to the things we deem as our “favorites.” It is at the core of the so-called “American dream” of creating a better life.

But when your value system is based on comparison, you arrive at some problems. If success is relative, you necessarily inject the notion of something being better and something being worse (don’t even get me started on how this affects the education system.)

This drive can be seen as a source of the issues we discuss surrounding these rape cases, and many others.

When someone decides to rape someone else they are deciding they have more value than the victim.

When someone decides to publish a sensationalized and false accusation against a group of students as a way of getting attention (e.g. Jackie), they are deciding that they want to create a value for themselves that is higher than those they are putting down, and those viewed as the competition.

When a religious extremist group carries out an attack, they have decided that their religious beliefs have more value than the lives they attack, and that they themselves will gain value over others through the violence.

When someone chooses to bully others it is in an attempt to gain value others or because they already believe they hold value over others.

When a parent says they are proud of their child’s accomplishment, they are placing value on this achievement over others and their child over others.

Competition isn’t always bad. It can produce wonderful things. But in a society with an entrenched value system saturated by relativism, problems will inevitably arise. When the society continues to uphold these tenants and instill them in the upcoming generations, the problems persist.

When you couple these factors with a fundamental misunderstanding of things like rape, you get a rape culture that seems impossible to eradicate. You get a generation frustrated with the status quo but no success in changing it. You impede the way of progress.

We get angry at injustice because deep down we know that this is a flawed way of looking at things.

Until we start seeing each other as people instead of as competition, until society transforms, and until everyone understands; solution will be stymied, stories will be published, people will be outraged, and the cycle will start again.

The good new is, as one of my favorite teachers has always said, as long as there are those who challenge and think critically, and who are willing to speak out, we will have hope.


I’m out.wordpress



Rape is Rape. Why is this so hard to understand?

By now you’ve probably read the powerful letter that’s most recently been circulating on social media and news sites. If you haven’t done so you can here:

Letter the victim read to her Stanford attacker

There has been a huge outcry over this situation everywhere you turn. I have been silent on the matter so far because of the overwhelming sentiment of anger and sadness expressed surrounding the issue, and I agreed with this sentiment and so felt I had nothing necessary to add.

That changed when I read this:

Turner’s Friend Refuses to Believe He is a Rapist

I had a hard time taking this in and reading it just on its face. Then I stepped back and viewed the whole situation again, and one thing stuck out in my mind.

Why on earth is this still a discussion? We shouldn’t have to talk about this anymore. Rape is Rape. Rape is horrendous. Rape is wrong.

3050fc6848f350534733c95cd104c58fThe severity (or lack thereof) of his sentence has been so hotly debated and pushed, however this is such a minor issue compared to the rest of things that I won’t touch it. Instead I am going to, much like the young woman of the story addressed the rapist in reference to what he and his lawyer had said, address what is chronicled in the Huffington Post article.

From the letter a childhood friend, Leslie Rasmussen, penned to the judge presiding over the case:

She expressed her sentiment that the rapist couldn’t have possibly done what he did because he was “always the sweetest to everyone” in high school.

Being nice and having a “huge, loving smile” doesn’t mean you can’t commit a horrific crime. It’s actually quite common to see shooters and killers described this way after finding out they are guilty of those crimes. Past disposition doesn’t mean someone can’t do something atrocious.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that alcohol increases emotions and feelings”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that rape is rape (although these days I’m beginning to wonder.) This is irrelevant.

“I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next ten + years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him”

He was (luckily) caught in the act by multiple witnesses who were so distraught they could barely speak through their tears. She made a decision to press charges because he made a decision to rape her. Yeah, it is unfair. Unfair to her. He made the decision to rip apart both of their lives while she was unconscious and had no decision making power.

624w3z2dvwt76w70lmec554watmvdtglrfmttkayqj7bo7xn53iupwb13mrjclwg“Where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists”

Actually that’s kind of the whole point of rape. Rape is committed by rapists. There’s no such thing as “light rape.” It’s all rape. By definition, if you’ve committed rape you are a rapist. This has nothing to do with being “politically correct.”

“They encourage drinking … you are throwing barely 20-somethings into these camp-like university environments, supporting partying, and then your mind is blown when things out of hand”

Drinking =/= rape. Partying =/= rape. None of these things excuse these actions.

“This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot”

Yeah, actually it’s pretty much exactly the same. Except she wasn’t walking to her car (well, I suppose she could have been, but that’s unlikely.)

“These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgment.”

Nope. A rapist is someone who rapes another person. By definition he is a rapist. Again, drinking and clouded judgment are irrelevant to this fact. They may contribute to the decision to become a rapist, but that has nothing to do with the fact that it is still rape. Notice I use the word “fact” because these are actual facts, unlike you saying that you “know for a fact” that he is innocent.

alcohol_infographic“I would not be writing this letter if I had an [sic] doubt in my mind that he is innocent.”

I could have no doubt in my mind that the moon is hot pink but that would not make it so.

Furthermore, I find it difficult to swallow that you refuse to acknowledge the situation just because you don’t want to think of a friend that way. If one of your friends had been raped by a stranger I’d wager you’d feel differently.

“I think this is all a huge misunderstanding”

 Yes you clearly misunderstand the entire situation and the word rape. And apparently many other people do as well.

Including the actual rapist himself because he apparently refuses to admit that he did anything wrong other than make a mistake by drinking too much. And his parents who are still supporting him and saying he shouldn’t be penalized. (Which is disturbing. As parents, you’d think they’d understand even more the need to keep someone’s child safe.)

So let’s clear things up once and for all.

If there is no explicit consent given, it is rape. If there isn’t the possibility to have enough clarity to give explicit consent (i.e. drunk, high, unconscious, dead), it is rape. If both parties aren’t in agreement, it is rape.

If you rape someone you are a rapist. If you rape someone you are completely responsible. Alcohol is not responsible. Parties are not responsible. THE VICTIM IS NOT RESPONSIBLE. Alcohol isn’t a rapist. Parties aren’t rapists. Victims aren’t rapists. Rapists are rapists.

691ddb5db2011f507259292a1ac2069eNow that we have this out of the way let’s turn to our treatment of rape.

Rape is horrific and violent and inexcusable. Rape is life changing for everyone involved. When we discuss a rape we shouldn’t demean the victim. We shouldn’t reduce the victim to an object, ignoring all the details that tell us who they are as a person. They shouldn’t be faceless. They deserve more.

We shouldn’t excuse the rapist. We shouldn’t use their accomplishments to somehow make their actions seem better. If they are caught in the act, if they are convicted, we shouldn’t protest that fact based on previous character.

When talking about Hitler no one says “Hitler: dictator, racist, responsible for the attempted extermination of an entire race. But he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize so it’s probably not true and even if it is he’s just not as guilty because he did some good things before.” So why are we doing this now?

Why does a person’s race, social status, athleticism, wealth, etc. somehow change our view of their crimes? Why is any of this a factor? If elitism is a problem that influences things like rape how can we expect to address these issues in any other part of society?

This isn’t an isolated case by any means and I’m glad it’s getting the attention it is.

Now, can all this craziness end and can we start defining and treating rape correctly? We can only hope.

I’m out.wordpress