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

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A UVA Student Responds

Updated thoughts can be found here: A UVA Student Reflects


This morning an unfortunately familiar wave of oppression and darkness fell over UVA. Somber and hushed conversations sounded like a sorrowful murmur against the blustery wind of the eerie November cold. A community that had just come together and started a healing journey had received yet another strong blow.

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A memorial to Hannah students created on UVA grounds.

It has been two months since Hannah Graham went missing. Her loss is one that the entire student body felt, as well as the faculty, staff, and residents in the surrounding Charlottesville area. The long process of healing has only just begun. People have come together more than ever before in support and encouragement.

In the midst of this atmosphere, Rolling Stone published the following article; causing the second wave of gloom to descend like a blanket over grounds:

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-rape-on-campus-20141119 

The article is long, but definitely worth reading. There has been an enormous response to this article. Links are ubiquitously present on all social media platforms which are littered with opinions. It hardly feels appropriate to speak of anything else in a moment such as this.

There has been a lot of backlash critiquing the article as bad journalism; and a large outcry for fact checking.

These people are missing the point.

I agree that the article could have been written differently. There are a lot of sweeping generalizations and careful wording which dramatizes things that shouldn’t be. Perhaps not all the quotes are exact and perhaps they aren’t word for word what was actually exchanged during those events. However, this is nitpicking.

The main image from the article

This article has also sparked a lot of debate about how the faculty at the University, and others, have handled such cases, and what should be done in the future. Some are ignoring the fact that there are laws and policies in place which must be adhered to, however this does not mean that those laws and policies are effective and should exist in the first place. It is very disheartening that survivors feel hindered from coming forward for fear of being judged or losing social capital. I’ll be the first to admit that I am personally very frustrated by the whole broken system, and the feeling like there is little possibility of real change occurring. No one disagrees that there is a large need for change. The how is what is debated. This is a conversation that needs to happen, and it needs to happen soon. But it is also necessary to keep perspective and realize that change won’t happen overnight. This whole ordeal is infuriating, but I hope it can inspire hope and change and instill a sense of responsibility in the minds of everyone affected.

However, I, along with many others, fear that this article will be counterproductive. The divisiveness that results from something like this will cause strain on an already vulnerable community. The negative image of UVA that it depicts is going to taint all aspects of the University, including the good ones. My personal experience interacting with people at UVA, including those involved in Greek Life, has been nothing but positive. I do not discount the fact that others have had much different experiences than I have, but this article portrays the University as a whole and its students in a way that makes it seem like there is no good and there is no trust. By in large, this is a great place with great people. But like everywhere else in this twisted world, evil does exist.

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The Academical Village

Regardless of the details, rape culture and gang rape is very much real. It is a huge problem; one which is not isolated simply to UVA. In all the controversy that has arisen surrounding this article, I fear the story will be lost in the chaos.

We need to let this story have its impact.  What has happened to “Jackie” and many others is horrific and makes me sick. To think that anyone could treat someone else in such a way is heartbreaking. The vivid memories she faces everyday should not exist. I hope that everyone who has experienced something like this can find healing and begin to see the good in the world again.

Now more than ever, it is imperative that our community comes together in support of each other, so that we can heal together. And in doing so, maybe, there can be one less.