Per NPR: Myths that make it hard to stop campus rape

I almost choked on my bagel this morning when I heard this story from NPR about the myths revolving around campus rape and why these myths make it hard to combat it. I really recommend reading this article.

The myths around campus rape are the same myths that revolve around rape in general — that rape is perpetrated by strangers lurking in the night, stalking women who walk alone at night and threatening them with a knife or gun. And I am starting to think society doesn’t understand how underreported rape incidents are, either.

As NPR reports, most of the research revolving around rapists has been conducted by interviewing convicted rapists — this is problematic because (1) 60 percent of rape cases are not reported to the police and (2) about two out of every three rapes was perpetrated by someone the victim knew. It’s easy to press charges against a stranger — it’s hard to press charges against a friend or family member.

Anyway, the NPR report shed light on campus rape, which is important because college women are four times as likely to be sexually assaulted. Colleges campuses are full of undetected rapists, rapists who have committed sexual assault but never been charged or convicted, and these often aren’t the stereotypical creeper lurking in the alley with a knife.

No, these guys are rapists — often serial rapists — who actually enjoy talking about times when they’ve raped someone, as if these conquests are badges to be worn with pride. And though they don’t have a gun or knife, they consciously use alcohol as a weapon:

“The basic weapon is alcohol,” the psychologist says. “If you can get a victim intoxicated to the point where she’s coming in and out of consciousness, or she’s unconscious — and that is a very, very common scenario — then why would you need a weapon? Why would you need a knife or a gun?”

It’s hard to tackle campus rape if you base your assumptions on the stereotypical stranger-lurking-in-the-night-with-a-knife-or-gun scenario because the solution to that is usually installing more lights around campus or emergency phones. This is a good idea, but it doesn’t address the vast majority of sexual assault cases that happen on campus, which involve alcohol as a weapon and the social scene as the replacement for the dark alley.

And, when you add that a woman drinking alcohol usually gets blamed for any sexual assault that happens to her (because when women get drunk they should just expect to be raped) , it’s no wonder that so many undetected rapists are on campus. Alcohol inhibits judgment and memory and serves as a scapegoat for the rapist, who can use it to paint an unflattering picture of the victim and, in the eyes of most people, discredit whatever she says.

So, instead of just teaching students about how to calcuate their BAC, educational institutions need to directly address sexual violence when giving lessons on the dangers of alcohol. Because one of the scariest things about the NPR article is that one college serial rapist didn’t think he was doing anything wrong by taking advantage of several drunk women — this disassociation between drunken sex and actual consent is a big part of the problem.

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