A Repost: Silence is Not the Remedy for Rape

Hey, everyone – I’m taking a break from my usual idiocy to post something that probably can’t be stressed enough. Alanna Badgley ’13, a friend of mine, approached me about posting this on Wesleying before it was published in last Friday’s Argus. I’ll let the piece speak for itself:

To my fellow Wesleyan students:

Here at Wesleyan we tend to believe that we are a part of a progressive and diverse community dedicated to making sure that people of all backgrounds can feel comfortable, respected and safe. This is mostly accurate and so it is all the sadder that there is an unacknowledged darker side that endangers all of us. To be specific: so long as sexual assault continues to be ignored, accepted or excused (and, by some, encouraged) within our community, our campus will continue to be unsafe. As long as alcohol abuse allows us to lose sight of our values as a community, and as long as extreme intoxication is seen as “normal,” we will all be unsafe.

Please don’t assume that this is an attack on the administration for neglecting to address these issues or care for its students. On the contrary, in the past two years, Wesleyan has taken numerous steps to protect survivors of sexual assault, largely as a result of student input. However, we still have a significant problem with rape on this campus and we will continue to have this issue if our collective attitude about sex does not change. The administration can only do so much to clean up after our messes, and only we can decide to change the conversation. We wouldn’t need more resources to protect survivors of sexual assault if sexual assault stopped all together. The problem is that few of you really believe that is possible. Or maybe you are able to pretend that rape doesn’t actually happen at Wesleyan. Allow me to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit more about myself.

During my freshman year, I was raped in Clark Hall. Last semester, I was assaulted again in Psi U. Both times involved extremely intoxicated “friends,” and both times resulted in months of psychological distress. For now, I’d like to focus on the most recent experience, because in many ways it has taught me the most about Wesleyan students, the way we think about sex, and how we address instances of sexual assault.

When I was assaulted last November, many of my friends saw me moments after. I approached my first friend hysterically crying trying to make sense of what had happened,  blubbering about my past rape while trying to remember to breathe—he responded by telling me he’d always found me attractive. And then he kissed me, probably hoping that he’d be getting lucky that night (remember, this was approximately two minutes after I had run away from an assault). I promptly left the frat house, finding a dozen ways to blame myself for what had happened on my short walk home.

The next day, I decided to explain the assault to the friends who had seen me crying the night before. I told them exactly who had done it (let’s call him Philip). Philip was their friend too, and in the next few months, I saw bro-code function in an incredibly toxic way. Not one of my friends decided to call Philip out for his actions (I don’t know why I had expected all of them to leap to my defense). Now, five months later, we barely speak, except in passing. They don’t call me or try to hang out with me anymore. It seems they’d rather pretend I was never really their friend than address the fact that their “bro” assaulted me. I think they wanted me to just “get over it” because if they could, why couldn’t I? In the short period after my assault, none of these friends reached out to me to make sure that I was okay. They didn’t think twice about inviting both Philip and me to the same places at the same time. And not one of them told Philip that what he had done was wrong. My friends’ silence essentially told Philip that his actions were excusable; their subsequent rejection of me assured him that I was just a “crazy” girl, overreacting to a normal weekend encounter.

When Philip did finally talk to me, he never really owned up to his actions. He did, however, make many excuses for his behavior including “you’re really hot,” as if that gave him some right to my body. When I tried explaining the importance of consent, he countered, “it ruins the moment to ask” and “there has to be an element of surprise.” His predictable responses speak to the larger hook-up mentality at Wesleyan. We seem to have come to this agreement that it’s “yes” until it’s “no” when in reality we should be looking at any sexual encounter as “no” until it’s “yes.”

This has to stop, Wesleyan. It has to stop before even more people get hurt.

Wesleyan should be a place where students respect one another and the people around them. We do a pretty good job maintaining our image during the week, but can the same be said for the way we behave on the weekends? Alcohol is repeatedly used as a tool and an excuse for violence and vulgar behavior. However, it isn’t alcohol that causes assaults; it’s the existing mentality going into the night. It might be easy to finish reading this Wespeak and assume, “this isn’t my problem and I don’t behave that way.” But I’d like to encourage you to take the time to reconsider not just the values that you bring to your weekend nights but those you enable in silence. Consider what it means to be a part of this community. You might be surprised by what morals you have been willing to sacrifice and how often you have disrespected this community in your drunken revelry and for the sake of “having fun” or getting laid.

It’s time to work together to change the conversations we’re having about sexual assault. Or rather, let’s start having the conversation a little more openly. Please don’t act like my friends did. Please don’t choose the path of ignoring sexual assault, but challenge yourselves to let the problem affect you too. This isn’t a conversation reserved for survivors, professionals, and women only. In fact, the conversation won’t have any impact until everyone joins it and works together to make Wesleyan a safer place.

  • bystander

    See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r478wczldOI

    Men Can Stop Rape.

  • ’12

    Thank you for posting this. I think you are extraordinarily courageous to  share your experience in a public forum like Wesleying.

  • Guy 2013

    I am a vague acquaintance of the writer, and I had no idea that any of this happened in her life.  In that sense, it was eye-opening for me;  I never felt this sort of thing could happen to someone I knew.

    But that’s just the thing:  I felt that way for a reason.  The reason is that since freshman year I’ve gone out almost every weekend, almost always drunk.  I have a close group of friends and it seems like at least one of us drinks a little too much almost every weekend.  All of us hook up with girls and most have had girlfriends with varying degrees of seriousness.  And NOTHING like this has EVER occurred.  As far as I know, the same holds true for my female friends, all of whom are attractive.

    So that’s why I take offense to some of the antagonistic language in the article, that seems to assume that anyone not involved in acts of sexual assault is complicit in them.  I refuse to believe that’s the case.   I’m so sorry this happened to this girl, and I don’t mean to blame her in any way for her choice of friends, but these assholes are in a small minority here.

    Alanna,  it sounds like you are done with those people forever and that’s a good thing, they’re disgusting.  If you went out on the weekends with my friends, male and female, I promise you would feel safe.

    • Elaine

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      Way to miss the entire point. A++ reading comprehension. Let’s try again: “It might be easy to finish reading this Wespeak and assume, “this isn’t
      my problem and I don’t behave that way.” But I’d like to encourage you
      to take the time to reconsider not just the values that you bring to
      your weekend nights but those you enable in silence.”

      Sexual assault is not “a small minority here.” How do you know “NOTHING like this has EVER occurred”? Have you asked all the people you’ve ever hooked up with? Have your friends all asked the people they’ve ever hooked up with? Have you ever actually asked for verbal consent? Your “refusal” to even conceive of this as a real possibility is exactly the problem she’s talking about here. 

      Stop thinking about yourself for just one second. Stop thinking about how this may personally implicate you in the slightest way. Stop thinking bout how this might require you to take some responsibility in some small minor way for your actions, and start thinking about the people who are, can be, and have been affected by sexual assault.

      tl;dr: stop being a dick.

      • guy 2013

        in response to both of you.  I said that “nothing like that this has ever occured”  in my group of friends.  And if you are going to just assume I’m a liar when I say that, you need to reconsider the kind of judgments you are making. 

        You tell me to stop and think about all of my hookups?  Well I just did, and I can’t think of a single one where there could have been any ambiguity about consent. 

        Most guys are not rapists, most guys do not condone rape.  Why can’t you admit that??  I know that it happens, I feel terrible about it, but I’m not going to apologize for it like its my fucking fault.

        • Guest

          I don’t think anyone’s accusing you of being a liar. You just might not be aware, by no fault of your own, of events that could have happened to your friends that they are keeping private. You can’t know with 100% certainty that none of your friends have ever been assaulted or even have been the perpetrators of assault because not everyone is as open as Ms. Badgley has been in this post. I don’t know the exact statistics, but a good portion of assaults go unreported; I think it’s safe to assume that these incidents are also not widely talked about among the victims’ friends.

          Maybe you don’t think there could have been any ambiguity about consent from your end, but again, you can’t know for certain about your partner’s feelings. Were you drunk? Was ze drunk? If only one or neither of you were sober, then you simply can’t know this 100%. There are plenty of assaults that occur when the victim does not give “enthusiastic consent” or whatever the phrase is now but doesn’t say no, either, often due to impairment from alcohol or drugs.

          I wish I could believe that most people are not rapists, and I’m sure that, when thinking clearly and logically, the average person doesn’t look at another and think, “Oh, hey, I’m going to go rape hir.” But a lot of assaults are circumstantial (again, due to alcohol/drugs) and are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. That seems the imply that in the “right (wrong) place and the right (wrong) time” and with the “right (wrong) person,” just about anyone can assault another, even if they did not originally set out to do so.

          Maybe, in the U.S., it’s not as bad as South Africa (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h49nyChYUaOgf0lSgybg6s01-Ztg?docId=CNG.12d7487934542dc627d4bcbd66c48b3b.3f1), where 1 in 4 men admits to having raped a woman, but something is terribly, terribly wrong. And when you try to make this into a clear-cut, black-and-white issue, it does not help. That is why communication is so vital. And, frankly, drinking until you lose control of your faculties just puts yourself and others in jeopardy, whether you tend to be aggressive or victimized when you’re intoxicated.

          The bottom line: no, it’s not YOUR fault that people rape. But when you pretend that rapes and assaults can’t possibly exist unless someone shouts it from the rooftops, you make it that much harder to bring this issue under control.

        • 2012

          1. Just because you haven’t heard about a rape or sexual assault in your friend group doesn’t mean that one has never happened. Perhaps you’re right, but  can you honestly not see how naive it is to assume that you know with absolute certainty?

          2. Condoning rape is very complicated. Sure you may not pat someone on the back or tell them you’re fine with it, but there are many was to implicitly condone sexual violence. Being dismissive of it in your own community is one of them. I suggest you look up the term “rape culture.” That might give you a better idea of what i mean here. 

          3. No one is asking you to apologize. They’re asking you to not do exactly what you’re doing, which is write this off like you know better and like it’s not a problem. Most guys may not be rapists, but there have been a hell of a lot of people raped on campus and the victims aren’t assaulting themselves.

        • Alanna Badgley

          Vague Acquaintance,

          First let me say that I’m really happy that you responded, and that you expressed your opinion. It’s both valid and important. I think the more voices that can be heard in this conversation, the more productive it will be. I know that there are already responses that express many of the things I would have also said to you, but I figure that I can use this opportunity to tell you even more about my experience to maybe shed some more light on rape culture and a general experience of a survivor of sexual assault.

          When I was raped during my freshman year, I kept it to myself. I can count on one hand the number of people that I told about the experience within the first two years of my recovery. I did not my friends. I did not tell my family. Until last December, you could have asked my parents if their daughter had ever been assaulted, and they would have with certainty said no. There are a few main reasons why I kept it a secret. 

          1) I did not want to be known as the girl who was raped. I was a freshman, and I didn’t want my entire four years to be defined by a horrible experience in my life. I didn’t want to relive it if I didn’t have to. However, what I learned over time was that there was no way to hide from it. For instance, I couldn’t ignore it if a friend said “I was just raped by that exam” or “We raped them” when referring to a sports victory.

          2) I did not want to burden others with my experience. When I did tell people, it felt like they both didn’t know what to do with the information or how to respond and felt uncomfortable to know it. People don’t like talking about sexual assault, and I could see my story making people uncomfortable. Also, once I did come forward with my secret to someone, it was extraordinarily unlikely for that person to ever mention it again. If anything, it would just be the elephant in the room from time to time. In that sense, it was still a secret even when I came forward. In a way, I think my friends did not want to burden me, but I also realize that it speaks to the larger problem we have with sexual assault: we don’t feel comfortable talking about it. I kept my experience a secret because I felt bad about making people feel uncomfortable. 

          In the case of my parents and really close friends, I didn’t want to make them feel the pain I felt. I wanted to protect them from pain, if I could. 

          3) Social ostracization. I wasn’t able to really feel the effects of this, until last semester, when I was assaulted again and decided to tell many more of my friends about not only the assault in Psi U, but also having been raped freshman year. The wespeak describes in detail what happened after coming forward with my secret. Since having published it, I’ve heard from numerous survivors on this campus who have told me stories very similar to the one I wrote. I’m not the only person this has happened to…not even close. 

          I don’t know if that was helpful, but I suppose I just wanted to give you a bit more information about why you might not know if someone had been assaulted and why I wrote my wespeak. This issue is not limited to me or my group of friends, this is a pervasive problem that everyone has difficulty addressing. Again, I value your opinion and I’m very happy that you responded. I wasn’t trying to blame you for my, or anyone else’s, assault. I was simply asking you to be a part of the conversation, and to challenge yourself to think more openly about the issue. I think the former has been achieved, but maybe we can still work on the latter. 

          I’d be happy to tell you more about my experiences or just talk, if you’d like. Let me know if you want to get coffee or something sometime. That goes for anyone else reading this, too. 

          Alanna 

    • Guy 12

       I hate to tell you, man, but we don’t really have the right to claim that “nothing like this has every occurred.” As Elaine mentioned, we just don’t know enough about the experiences of every person on this campus. At the very least, these sorts of comments are unwarranted because they dismiss the problem outright. Even if you or I have never directly experienced sexual assault on this campus, that does not invalidate this one person’s experience. Even if sexual assault was confined to a small part of campus, that is no excuse for taking responsibility for its continued existence.

      As a guy I’m more concerned with the way you ended your post. Attempts to reassure the victim that if she only hung out with you and your friends then she’d be safe once again misses the point of her letter. As she writes in her letter, “Phillip’s” attempts to “console” her only exacerbated the problem. That kind of response is not appropriate. Instead of attempting to console the victims of sexual assault, why don’t we, as guys, spend time talking to other guys about ways to prevent behavior that could lead to sexual assault in the first place. Even though ending sexual assault will probably need effort on both sides, why don’t we, as guys, do what we can to make sure other guys don’t allow it to continue.

      If you are an acquaintance of the person who wrote this letter, perhaps you also know “Phillip” and the other guys she mentions. Talk to them. Role model for them. Make sure they know their actions were wrong and damaging. Instead of ignoring the problem by separating yourself from “those people,” re-immerse yourself in that community and change it.

      • Guy 12

         Typo in the first paragraph: “Even if sexual assault were confined to a small part of campus, that is not excuse for NOT taking responsibility for its continued existence.”

  • jms

    Thank you for educating me. I did not mean to offend anyone.

    • Guest

      jms, if you’re daughter comes to wes, you will quickly learn that its impossible not to offend people here.  Continue to speak you’re mind and don’t let them make you feel guilty.

       

  • ’12

    @jms-You were “hoping Wes was better than this?” 1)What the hell does that mean? And secondly, how dare you take the attention away from the heart of the matter–that rape culture is prevalent among colleges in the US and we need to create a safe space to recognize that sexual assault is indeed happening all around us–even at a school like Wes. Your statement is one that will just perpetuate the silence and stigma because “we” like to make the generalization that Wes is beyonnd this and that and that sexual assault could never happen here. Such thinking is horrifyingly dangerous.

  • jms

    Thank you for your thoughtful post….. my daughter is a “pre-frosh”. I was hoping somehow Wes was better than this…

    I am so sorry for what happened to you.

  • anon

    Thank you so much for posting this.  This needs to be said/talked about.