7 Shocking Ways Colleges Have Trivialized Rape

August 14, 2013

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One of the most persistent problems anti-rape and anti-domestic violence activists face is the inability of people to see these crimes as crimes. In theory, yes, we all understand that abusing someone is wrong and criminal, but all too often it becomes easy in individual cases to write off the incidents, which usually happen between people who know each other, as less a matter of criminal justice and more just interpersonal squabbling, instead of as a systemic problem that affects all of us. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding is perpetuated by institutions that would rather see these problems as personal problems than cultural problems in order to protect their reputation. Universities are often some of the worst offenders.

Here’s a list of some of the euphemisms and coded terms colleges and universities have used that minimize or even trivialize the problem of violence against women on campus.

1) “Personal injury” or “domestic dispute.” The University of Southern California publishes, as schools are expected to do under federal law, an annual security report. Students are accusing the school of trying to minimize the incidence of crime on campus by calling rape by names like “personal injury,” “domestic dispute,” or even “injury response.” This sort of thing manages to do double damage, both by under-representing the actual interpersonal crime problem on campus while inadvertently making it seem like there’s more stranger-on-stranger crime than there actually is.

It also has the effect of encouraging school officials to insult, degrade, or minimize the experiences of rape victims. One rape victim had the campus police, always eager to find ways to classify rape as not-rape, tell her that her “injury” couldn’t be registered as rape because her assailant didn’t orgasm. Another victim found that the school was incredibly concerned that they not appear to be punishing the assailant and instead merely subject him to an “educative” process. If they called it rape instead of using these various euphemisms, maybe it would be easier for them to see why punishment is, in fact, an appropriate response.

2) “Sexual activity that is later regretted or deemed to have lacked consent.”Amanda Hess dug up this horrible euphemism for rape written into a safety manual for the University of Virginia in 2010. This is offensive on a couple of levels, and not just because it’s an avoidance of talking about men who actively make the choice to force sex on people, instead casting that choice as something that just happens. It also reinforces a major, ongoing lie about rape: That it’s a matter of women consenting in the moment and changing their minds later. This simply isn’t what rape is; rape is determined by lack of consent in the moment. The claim that women have consensual sex and later cry rape is a widespread myth that, if you start to dig around, has a shocking lack of evidence for its existence.

3) “Rape is like football.” When Annie E. Clark, a student at the University of North Carolina, tried to report her rape, the administrator reportedly said to her, “Well… rape is like football, if you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback, Annie… is there anything you would have done differently?” This kind of attitude not only minimizes rape, but generally reinforces the notion that rape is just a normal expression of male sexuality and not a crime. This statement implies that sex is something that men take and women withhold and that any man out there is going to rape if he gets ahead in the “game.” This is completely untrue. Research shows only 5-6% of men are rapists, and most sexual penetration is not a game the woman lost but a collaborative effort between consenting partners.

Republished from: AlterNet