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Editorial: It takes everyone at MU to stop rape culture

Nov. 30, 2012

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Maneater editorial board.

We like to think we attend a school that is conscious, empathetic and welcoming to all. We like to imagine ourselves in the company of students who see the world in true color, who stand up when they see injustice and who, above all, seek never to cause injustice to others. We like to say we are One Mizzou — one proud, diverse, crazy family working together to make a better and brighter future.

But, sometimes, there are indications to the contrary. Sometimes, we see and hear words and actions on this campus that aim to hurt, to judge, to belittle and to dishearten. Sometimes, we get the sickening feeling that maybe our community is not as respectful and supportive as we think. This week, we have seen and felt plenty of this.

The dialogue about rape and sexual assault at MU has occasionally turned revolting and vile. In spite of all those on campus who tirelessly and bravely stand up each day and work to change students’ attitudes toward sexual violence, recent events have shown there are still plenty of misconceptions about what constitutes rape and sexual assault. We feel it’s now necessary to, once again, directly address these misconceptions.

Rape is not a single kind of act in a single kind of situation. It doesn’t always fit a stereotype. The only thing that makes it rape is the lack of consent from each person involved. Nothing else can change that. Our state defines it as a person having “sexual intercourse with another person by the use of forcible compulsion.”

“Forcible rape" is the legal term in Missouri, but that does not mean that nonconsensual sex without violence or the victim fighting back is exempt. No extraneous factor in the situation makes it rape, except for the lack of consent.

If one involved person says no, that’s rape.

If it takes coercion or force to receive a “yes,” that’s rape.

Even if the survivor communicates with the rapist afterward or appears friendly or even apologetic, that’s still rape. Nothing that occurs after the act can change that.

It’s the responsibility of the survivor to tell the truth, but only he or she can say if consent was given. What matters is not the rapist's judgment, or the judgment of those who hear about it — it's the survivor’s judgment.

More generally, it’s everyone’s responsibility to act with sensitivity and empathy toward people who might be survivors of rape or sexual assault. It’s important to understand that rape is not the fault of the survivor — it has nothing to do with what he or she said to the attacker, their history or how the survivor acted before or after the act.

It doesn’t matter what the survivor was wearing, how long they waited before going to the police or even if they go to the police at all. It doesn’t matter if the survivor was intoxicated. And when we act as though these things — the actions of the survivor — do matter, we misplace blame. The only people who can prevent rape are the potential rapists, and when we forget that, we make it harder to right the wrongs that have been done.

When individuals blame survivors and trivialize their experiences, two things happen. It makes the survivor’s life even more of a hell, exacerbating their pain, constantly and publicly reminding them of what may have been one of the most traumatic experiences of their life. And it contributes to a culture of suppression and judgment where other sexual violence survivors, in both the present and in the future, feel pressured to keep their own injustices to themselves, in order to avoid ostracism and protect their reputation and well-being.

Reporting rape in this culture, it seems, is more trouble than it's worth. It is absolutely crucial that this changes.

Such a change will take action: the collective action of inspired individuals. But it’s so easy here, when there are so many people working so hard to help. The Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center offers resources to sexual violence survivors and friends and family members of survivors. The Sexual Health Advocate Peer Educators program, through the Student Health Center, aims to educate students about their sexual rights. RSVP’s White Ribbon campaign encourages men to speak out against rape. The Counseling Center can offer support to survivors of sexual violence as they heal. Student Life’s Green Dot initiative helps promote positive sexuality and the importance of consent.

We are sick of writing about the rape culture on this campus. We are tired of being disappointed in members of the MU community who, despite frequent instances of sexual assault and constant degradation of the sense of security here, refuse to acknowledge sexual violence as a serious problem with a broad definition. It is the duty of each student who takes pride in being a Missouri Tiger to treat each and every other fellow student with respect and understanding.

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Article comments

Nov. 30, 2012 at 2:17 p.m.

MizzouTiger1890: This is ridiculous. Can we just stop the stand-in "rape culture" label every time anybody asks to see EVIDENCE of an alleged crime? That's not a culture of rape, that's a culture of justice. If we as a society want to hold rape on the level of murder, molestation, etc. then we ALL need to stop putting it on a pedestal whenever it's convenient to take a stand. If we want "rape culture" to die, then we need to stop labeling it whenever we can and fighting against it. I think rape SHOULD be on the same level as murder-as serious, as reported, as important, etc. However we're never going to do that if we attach mystical significance to it that allows us to skip over the actual justice of an alleged case.

Nov. 30, 2012 at 7:02 p.m.

J. Prevost: MizzouTiger1890: The problem isn't asking for evidence. The problem is treating the victim as if they are a liar, or making assumptions that they were doing something to "invite" the rape. (As if such a thing were possible.) If you want to be fair to both sides? Assume the accused is innocent until proven guilty, sure. But also assume that the accuser is telling the truth until proven otherwise. Don't speculate in the absence of facts. Don't go looking for excuses for the accused. The fact that we so often hear speculation about what the accuser was doing wrong, or whether they were lying, etc., but almost never hear speculation about whether the accused might have done this before? That's rape culture. That's what it means. The presumption of the guilt of the person who, statistically speaking, is almost always the victim of a horrible crime.

Dec. 2, 2012 at 9:43 p.m.

MizzouTiger1890: J. Prevost: One can't assume that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty and ALSO assume that the accuser is telling the truth until proven otherwise. And 'speculating in the absence of facts' is exactly what made this a controversy in the first place: we had no facts, we had a five tweets out of nowhere and then a scandal. Those aren't facts. And, in this case, isn't it appropriate to question whether an accuser is lying? After all, that's the only reason they could be wrong in their accusation. If we assume them to be right and damn all attempts for reasonable discourse, then it's not just and it's not an acceptable process for dealing with serious crime. Forcing a defendant to prove a negative is unconstitutional, as many Supreme Court cases have taught us. Forcing the prosecution to prove their case, however, is the absolute process and foundation of the American judicial system. The "rape culture" you're referring to is just politically correct pandering. While everybody can agree that rape is an appalling crime, it is not deserving of a higher power than other equally serious criminal charges. The processes of justice must be fair across the board, and name-dropping the phrase "rape culture" takes the focus off of the issue at hand, instead placing blame on offensive comments while taking everyone's mind off the actual case. Just because a crime is particularly offensive, horrendous or despicable does not put it on a higher plane of justice. Rape culture is less a as the phrase itself is an interfering idea. As soon as we take the pressure AWAY from the accuser and instead focus only on the defendant (because that is the very definition that you argued) we mar the rational judicial process established over centuries of reasonable thought, forcing things to conform to an irrational precedent: a defendant proving a negative. Why is that sensical? Why should it be the standard of society? Why are we, as participants in the judicial process (even in our own judgment personally or as a community) chastised, shunned or embarrassed by practicing the established ideals of a civilized system of justice?

Dec. 5, 2012 at 10:19 p.m.

MUwriter16: As someone who has spent over a month writing a paper about this very issue, I would like to point out that the particular Dixon case obviously has not been solved yet. However, that case does not define rape culture. That may have spawned these articles in the Maneater, The Missourian, and the email from our MSA president, however that case is not the only case. It is not the only issue. Mizzou's campus and colleges everywhere have a serious problem with rape, and it is a problem that will not be resolved until rape culture is ended. We have to stop blaming the victim and writing rape off as "no big deal." NO woman is asking for that, NO woman deserves it, and NO woman should be treated like she did.

Dec. 16, 2012 at 3:22 a.m.

MUDude: I'm just so sick of that loaded term "rape culture." Deviate even REMOTELY from the Feminist Politburo party line, and you're part of some mythical "rape culture." Yes, there are problems, sure, and they DEFINITELY need to be addressed! But don't go attributing it to some fictional "rape culture", where EVERYONE AND ANYONE thinks rape isn't serious, wants to rape all the time, etc. The fact that some people MAKE MISTAKES and say dumb and/or ignorant sh*t about rape- perhaps b/c they just don't fully comprehend the pain of rape or something of that nature- is not always indicative of some rape "culture." And why DO you have to use such a loaded term when talking about rape? Do you think it's PRODUCTIVE... or does it make YOU sound more radical and controversial than need be? I think this is such a pointless term that the more-radical wing of the current feminist movement needs to just do away with already! Who does it help? How does it facilitate rational discussion?? The term just sounds needlessly combative.

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