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Kathleen Mayer: Freshman Women and Sexual Assault at Dartmouth (3/3)
I don’t mean to say that there aren’t things you can do to try to avoid sexual assault and protect your friends as best you can. There are ways to be less vulnerable to attackers, and there are ways that both Dartmouth guys and girls alike can reduce sexual assault on campus. I’d like to help enumerate some of them for you.
But please, remember you could follow every single guideline on this list and still be attacked; please also know that you may ignore them all and go through life without ever falling victim to a cruel man’s desire to degrade and dominate you. And above all, remember that you have absolutely no obligation to follow any or all of these guidelines whatsoever. I refuse to lend my voice to the chorus that will tell you that failure to do any of these things amounts to fault on your part. Fault can only be assigned to an act; and in the case of nonconsensual sex, the only actor is the rapist.
1. Do not make the mistake of thinking you are only unsafe in an unfamiliar environment. 90% of rape victims on college campuses know their assailants. The mentality of someone who commits sexual assault is usually one that seeks out people who have let their guard down or seem particularly vulnerable. That doesn’t just mean a blacked-out girl passed out on a couch of jackets in a frat. Of course, you should try not to do that, and you certainly should try not to fall asleep in a stranger’s bed or be left alone passed out anywhere at all. That being said, the girl on the frat couch may be safer than a girl who is asleep in her own single who forgot to lock her door if she has an abusive ex or happened to bruise the ego of a dangerous guy, because at least the girl on the couch has the benefit of bystanders milling about. Statistics show that the average “undetected rapist,” (i.e., the typical perpetrator of those 160 unreported assaults mentioned before) is likely a repeat offender who will commit an average of six rapes in his lifetime. Someone who was taken home by a group of so-called friends and left in the care of a person who does not deserve her trust is also especially vulnerable because she is in a more private area, and her friends may not realize she isn’t safe if she is at home. Many sexual assaults do not actually happen in places where the rapist has an obvious upperhand.
2. Do not leave a friend by herself when she is very drunk. Use Good Sam if necessary. Make sure you let each other know when you’ve gotten home safely.
3. By that same token, don’t be afraid to “cockblock” if you think there’s a good chance your friend might not remember some percentage of what she’s about to do when she starts getting friendly with a guy. You are doing both of them a favor. No guy wants to wake up and realize that he has had sex with a girl who was not actually conscious of what was going on at the time, and I’m sure it feels pretty terrible for a guy not to remember either.
4. This one is for well-intentioned men, which I know includes almost all of you (remember, I’m not a man-hater who thinks you have no self-control): don’t laugh at or make rape jokes, even if they are stupid or outrageous or you think they’re harmless because they’re within the sanctity of a blitzlist where no female rape victim is likely to overhear your flippant remarks. When you do this, those among you who actually would commit such an act — who actually don’t see it as something you “don’t really mean” — feel validated. You don’t have to get all serious and start lecturing your friends or brothers on the danger of such a mentality; you can just laugh it off with a comment like, “Dude, that’s kinda fucked up” — the way you would if someone said something sexual about your sister. It’s really not that hard. Just make it clear that you don’t think it’s normal or cool to make those kinds of jokes. And if you do make such jokes yourself, just keep in mind that you might be inadvertently encouraging someone to hurt people in your community, people you count as friends or even the girl you might want to marry one day.
5. Don’t say any of the previously mentioned, italicized examples of “things people say” to anyone, ever. You will also contribute to the trivialization of rape and quite possibly make someone you care about feel ashamed and guilty for something they had no part in. You have no idea who might have gone through that laundry list of misplaced blame in their own heads over and over a million times before. One in six women is sexually assaulted in her lifetime. This is not something women are doing to themselves. This is not something women can avoid by not drinking too much or not having sex — in other words, by simply submitting themselves to the unfounded expectation that women should know better or women should do something differently.
Please know that both men and women alike will tell you all of those aforementioned backwards, damaging, fundamentally misogynistic excuses meant to imply that women aren’t to be trusted to recount their own experiences. But also know that both men and women alike will be there for you when you need them most, and support you when you don’t want to go on anymore or simply don’t think that you can.
Even if your rapist is found guilty by COS, he will almost certainly come back to campus before you graduate, and you will see him walking around and maybe the very thought of having to see that will make you so sick and so scared that you stop leaving your room or have suicidal thoughts or want to drop out of Dartmouth. If that happens, there will always be people on your side. Please don’t lose trust in that.
Please don’t forget that you do not deserve what happened to you, that you are worthwhile, and most importantly, that there is nothing that you could have done or that you can do moving forward to change the fact that evil is and always will be as ordinary as good. Try to believe in and follow the good — there is nothing more you can do. And there is certainly nothing more you should do.
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