You may have seen the video “Not Asking For It” on your Facebook newsfeed recently. At a time when there’s a lot of discourse on campus surrounding sexual assault and rape culture, this video encourages people to think about what people mean when they say, “They were asking for it.” The video points out that neither clothes nor dancing are invitations for sexual advances. I sat down with Sally Rappaport ’17 who created the video and we talked about why she made the short film and what the reactions to it have been. Check out her movie, and check out the interview below the jump.
At the present time, there is an unprecedented political atmosphere on campus that affords our community a tremendous opportunity to take meaningful and effective action to combat campus sexual assault: co-educate and drastically reform our campus’s three all-male residential fraternities or forbid them use of their residential facilities.
This action has long been necessary, and in pursuit of this action there are a few facts that require illumination:
I will preface this post with a few undeniable facts as reminders to this campus regarding sexual violence. First, rape culture does exist throughout campus, thus sexual assault occurs throughout campus—and it is not limited to any part of campus. Second, addressing sexual violence is everyone’s responsibility—as a member of the Wesleyan community, this issue is your issue.
Recently, Mari Jarris ’14 and Chloe Murtagh ’15 have made bold moves in addressing sexual assault. In a fantastic post here on Wesleying, entitled “Don’t Assume ‘She’s Lying'”, they remind us:
We need to show that we take this issue seriously by combating rape culture on campus. We need to speak up when we hear responses such as “it seems like she’s creating a problem out of nothing” or “but she went home with him.” These reactions reveal three dangerous misconceptions. First, that there is a likelihood of false reporting (in reality, there is the opposite problem of significant underreporting). Second, and closely related to the first, is the tendency to blame the survivor. Third is the misconception that sexual assault is always perpetrated by strangers in unfamiliar places and accompanied by other physical violence (in fact, 90% of sexual violence on college campuses is perpetrated by someone the survivor knows).
This past week, the two launched a website, silence-is-violence.org, which serves as one online community for survivors to anonymously speak out about their experiences. The site also features quotes, submitted by any member of the Wesleyan community, that demonstrate how rape culture is perpetuated on campus through language. I highly recommend you check the site out—but this recommendation also comes with a strong trigger warning, as the site archives survivor testimonials and direct quotes.
Warning: readers may find the contents of this article triggering. All quotes and anecdotes used in this article were experienced or overheard by the authors.
“She’s lying.” “It was her choice to go to the party.” “But frats raise money for charity.” The response to the recent lawsuit against Psi Upsilon fraternity reflects the extent to which rape culture pervades our community. Sexual assault is by no means an exception at Wesleyan: one out of every four college women is a victim of rape or attempted rape and one in every seven college men is a survivor of sexual assault. But only lawsuits like these draw national and international attention.
In light of the reaction to the most recent lawsuit, specifically the focus on fraternity community service and fundraising, victim-blaming, and “misreporting,” we would like to redirect conversation to the real issue: how to support survivors of sexual assault and how to prevent sexual assault on our campus. Fraternities are relevant to this imperative only to the extent that we must eliminate environments in which the much wider problem of sexual assault is exacerbated. This is not a solution, but it is an immediate first step toward preventing sexual violence.
Unless you shut yourself off from the world this past week, you probably read, or at least heard mention of, The Atlantic’s feature story on fraternities and their dangers, which highlighted Wesleyan University and Beta Theta Pi. The article explores the role of fraternities on campuses, especially in the crafting of party culture and the rise of sexual assault. The article is long, but well worth the read, and has reopened space for dialogue on these issues.
This past October, a former Wesleyan student filed a lawsuit against the University. The student, who has used the pseudonym Jane Doe in court proceedings to maintain her anonymity, says that she was raped in a locked room during the fraternity’s 2010 Halloween party by John O’Neill, 21, of Yorktown, NY. O’Neill was a guest of the fraternity and not a Wesleyan student. He was charged with first-degree sexual assault, pleaded no contest to lesser charges of third-degree assault and first-degree unlawful restraint a little over a year ago, and is now serving a 15-month prison sentence, from which he will be released next month.
According to The Hartford Courant, “The woman’s lawsuit, filed last October, charges Wesleyan with violating Title IX, the federal gender-equity law, by failing “to supervise, discipline, warn or take other corrective action” against the fraternity, actions that it says could have prevented the assault.” Wesleyan warned students in an email in March 2010 to avoid Beta due to safety concerns. Jane Doe says that, as she was not aware of that warning, she went to the frat’s Halloween party, where she was raped.
Fast-forward to the present. Lawyers for the Wesleyan chapter of Beta Theta Pi (which is also a defendant in the case) filed papers this week arguing that Jane Doe should not be able to use the pseudonym in the federal lawsuit. The Hartford Courant summarizes their motion as follows:
Lawyers for the Mu Epsilon chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Wesleyan said the woman should not be allowed to proceed with her lawsuit under the pseudonym “Jane Doe” because “it allows her to make defamatory statements against” the fraternity and Wesleyan “behind a cloak of anonymity,” according to a motion filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
Rho Epsilon Pi go-getters, Lucy Finn ’14 and Jaxie Friedman ’15, write in about an amazing Oscar nominated documentary that will be screened on campus TONIGHT, so don’t miss out.
We will screen the incredible Academy Award Nominated film, The Invisible War, an investigative documentary about the epidemic of rape of female soldiers within the US military. Directed by Kirby Dick, the film was recently nominated for an Oscar. Following the screening, author Helen Benedict will give a talk on her research on sexual violence within the US military. Two of her books, The Lonely Soldier and Sand Queen will be sold and signed at the event as well.
Women in the US Military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than shot by enemy fire.
Come be a part of the conversation. Brought to you by Rho Epsilon Pi with the help of the SBC, the FGSS Department, the Center for Film Studies, Wesleyan Women in Film, and Womanist House.
Date: TONIGHT, April 18th
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Place: Powell Family Cinema
If you’ve followed the Steubenville trial in recent weeks, you may have found some of the media responses disconcerting. Instead of providing support for sexual survivors, popular media outlets like CNN lamented that the conviction will impact the once-bright futures of the rapists. In these comments, CNN did not detail how Jane Doe was harassed online and slut-shamed by her community (and America at large) for reporting the crime and pressing charges. CNN did not lament how rape culture creates an environment that renders survivors of sexual assault afraid to talk about their experiences and ashamed of something that isn’t their fault. One in five women in the United States is sexually assaulted and 60% of these attacks go unreported to the police. It seems like there’s something wrong with the common discourse of sexual assault.
The unceasingly inspirational Lena Solow ’12 wants to provide messages of hope and positivity for survivors that were so lacking from many Steubenville responses. This blog is not just for Jane Doe—it’s for any survivor who seeks affirmation and encouragement. Solow writes, “This is a place to consolidate messages of hope and encouragement and affirmation for sexual assault survivors. Created in response to the backlash, victim blaming, and all-around horrifying language about the Steubenville rape case. If Jane Doe, the Steubenville survivor, searches for messages, there should be something else available for her, and for all survivors of assault.”
Here is a link to the blog, “Messages for Survivors.” You should definitely check it out and even contribute if you feel so inclined.
“We believe it is is not ethically responsible at this time for us as alumni to financially support an institution that is not willing to properly ensure the safety and respect of its student body.”
Confirming reports from Homecoming Weekend that a significant number of alumni are aware of and unhappy about recent campus controversies surrounding sexual assault and need-blind admissions, Wesleying received the following letter from members of the class of 2010. The note has been circulating via email among recent alums. In it, Anonymous ’10 expresses “serious concerns regarding two recent, unsettling missteps taken by Wesleyan University” and asks hir classmates to pledge not to donate. No doubt this suggestion will be controversial on campus (particularly in the arena of need-blind, where Wesleyan’s meager alumni giving rate is especially pertinent). No doubt it will also grab attention.
Some alumni have already defended their unwillingness to donate in the comments section of recent posts. Wesleying is interested in following up with a longer feature. If you’re an alumnus who won’t donate to the school and want to talk about it—or a caller for Red & Black—please contact us at staff(at)wesleying(dot)org.
Here’s the letter:
A few weeks ago, a former Wesleyan student filed suit against the University, as well as the national Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, its Mu Epsilon chapter here at Wesleyan, and the Baird Society that owns the building and grounds occupied by Mu Epsilon. In a nutshell, the suit alleges that the University and the other parties did not take sufficient action to prevent the rape of the former student at a Halloween Party at Beta in October of 2010. The coverage of this lawsuit, by Wesleying and by local and national news sources, involves a Brobdingnagian array of diverse but connected issues. I’m going to try to touch on as many as I can. I will inevitably sound preachy at particular points, and for that I apologize in advance.
I really hope that these statements are unnecessary, but here goes: sexual assault, like pretty much any kind of assault, is problematic and unacceptable. The environment in which sexual assault remains possible is likewise problematic and unacceptable.
This post attempts to make those things a little bit clearer, comments on the subject in light of recent events, and includes many of my own opinions tying this particular issue to broader and equally terrifying patterns of college/youth/generational/human attitude that underlie the culture of permissible rape. This post is long. You should read it anyway.
Let’s start with some facts:
- Millions of rapes occur every year, both forcible (as noted in the image above) and non-forcible. The vast majority are perpetrated by men against women, though still significant numbers of rapes are perpetrated by women against men and by men against men or women against women.
- About one in four women will be subject to a sexual assault in their lifetimes. About one in six men will be subject to the same. [United States Department of Justice]
- About one in five women at a college or university will be subject to a sexual assault during their years at school.
- A 1991 study found that 76% of boys and 56% of girls in high school believe that forced sex is acceptable under certain conditions. These “certain conditions” typically included ‘if those involved had been dating for at least six months’ and/or ‘if he spent a lot of money on her.’ [Parrot & Bechhofer, 1991]
- Sexual assault survivors are typically acquainted with the perpetrator beforehand, oftentimes being friends or even in a long-term relationship.
- Both individuals have typically consumed alcohol or other substances (about three in four perpetrators and one in two survivors). [Abbey et al., 1998]
- In most studies, large percentages of survivors interviewed that described an incident meeting the study’s definition of rape would not themselves term the incident as rape.