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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

On Rape Myths And Victim-Blaming

Alexa Schwartz |
May 8, 2013 | 6:30 p.m. PDT

Guest Contributor

When I read the bold first lines of Francesca Bessey’s article, “Rape Goes Unpunished At USC”, my jaw dropped.

As a Trojan, seeing how some USC students have responded to sexual violence on campus has left me enraged. (JacQuLyne, Creative Commons)
As a Trojan, seeing how some USC students have responded to sexual violence on campus has left me enraged. (JacQuLyne, Creative Commons)
Francesca is my second friend at USC to come forward and say, “I was raped,” on a public forum this semester. I am so proud of her for doing so, and I applaud her. The most extreme attack on her personhood is now out there for the world to see.

And I am so hurt to see the responses, in the comments section, from people who are, presumably, fellow Trojans: 

“What a joke.”

What a vile sentiment. Rape is not a joke—it is, in fact, a felony. To attempt to trivialize either the bravery of the author coming forward or the supreme violence of what was done to her is appallingly ignorant.

“Everyone likes to play victim without actually thinking.”

This is insinuating that being a victim is some sort of enjoyable experience. Being a victim is not glamorous—indeed, the secession of power that comes with the victim identity might have something to do with a victim being in denial for so long. In that time, between the frozen state of trauma and the final decision to come forward with the truth, a rape victim will agonize over every wrong move she made that night. She does spend a lot of time “actually thinking,” and believe me, she does not enjoy stepping into the victim role. 

“Consent was implied.” 

There is no such thing as implied consent. Consent can only be given, explicitly. Going to a party is not implying consent. Going into a room with someone is not implying consent. Getting naked with someone is not implying consent. Being in a relationship with someone is not implying consent. Falling asleep, or being otherwise unable to say no, is not implying consent. Consenting to some form of sexual activity is not implying consent to any other sexual activity. To assume that you are reading your partner’s mind is not just stupid and inconsiderate, it is taking the very real risk of violating that person’s body. If it is not known for certain that both partners want to engage in a particular activity, then nothing should be happening.    

“Everyone knows the whole fraternity system is a ploy for elitist college guys to get laid.” 

I find it astonishing that statements like this can be made by the same people who are actually in fraternities. It certainly does seem that the whole fraternity system is structured to the advantage of horny fraternity brothers, with the abundant alcohol, the gender ratio at parties and the blessing of administrators and alumni alike. That doesn’t mean that by stepping onto the premises, a woman is surrendering all bodily autonomy to the young men who have opened their home and provided the alcohol. “If you don’t want to get raped, don’t go to a frat party” is sick advice. No person’s safety should be put in jeopardy by merely walking into a building, much less such an “elite” and publically sanctioned establishment as a fraternity. This problem will not be solved by telling women to avoid certain settings; it must be addressed by assigning responsibility and culpability to potential sexual aggressors – including, but not limited to, the men in the Greek system.

“Guys (especially college guys) are biologically programmed to try to screw every girl they can, its [sic] nature. Don’t hate the players, hate the game.”

This stereotype needs to be put away, for good. Men are not programmed to do anything. They are not robots. They are not wired. Nor are they animals, running free in the wild. They are conscious human beings, just like the women they so doggedly pursue. 

The assertion that Francesca, or any rape victim, had any fault in what happened to her is untrue and inhumane. Anyone who proclaims such must be corrected. Rape victims spend enough time rehashing their experiences without being blamed for them by anonymous peers. I will not stand for such disrespect from my own student body. I will not tolerate the robbery of what could be a potentially healing action – coming forward publically – by people who are not invested either way in whether she recovers from her trauma. 

In the weeks following the publication of Tucker Reed’s xoJane article, I have attempted to combat the trolling accusations in the comments section that she is lying. I have been able to do this knowing that these attacks come from strangers in far-away states, and in the hopes that by clarifying some of the facts in Tucker’s case, I can change their minds.

Responding to Francesca’s Neon Tommy article has been a lot harder, however; there is a large chance I know the people who wrote such harsh comments. How can people at my own school be so viciously accusatory towards victims? As a Trojan, reading these comments has left me enraged.

The main purpose of Francesca’s article was to address the doubt and shame that rape victims are met with when they come forward with their stories. Yet the response to this brave young woman’s sharing of her story has been met with just that: suspicion, attempts to shame and the perpetuation of the rape myths that coat our campus.

Rape is not, and never will be, a joke.

To Francesca, I am as proud as ever that you have shared your story. May it be the first stone of many that breaks through the glass wall that so rigidly silences victims, so that there can finally be a discussion of the rape culture at USC. Fight on, my friend.


Alexa Schwartz is an undergraduate student at USC and co-director of the Student Coalition Against Rape (S.C.A.R.). Reach her here; follow her here.

If you, or anyone you know, have been a victim of sexual assault at the University of Southern California and feel that the university did not respond appropriately to your case, or if you are simply interested in ending impunity for rapists at USC, please contact S.C.A.R. here.


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Anonymous (not verified) on May 11, 2013 12:33 AM

I think a good rule to follow is just don't have sex with anyone who is intoxicated

Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2013 8:31 AM

While I can see the argument that when both people are blacked out and make mistakes the lines of responsibility get blurred, were ANY of the cases like this? Because from what I've read, that wasn't the case in most reported situations situations.

Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2013 3:15 AM

My issue with your post is the bash on fraternities. As someone in a fraternity, I've witnessed far too many girls showing up blacked out from a pregame who probably ended up making bad decisions because of it. I'm not saying that this can't be considered rape, but rape or not there has to be some responsibility placed on the girl who decides to drink half a bottle of vodka and then stumble around the row trying to make out with every guy she sees. It's not as if every guy is sitting there sober waiting to find a drunk girl to take advantage of. What about if the guy happens to be too intoxicated to make the right judgment call and so is the girl? Why is that automatically the guys fault? My point is there has to be some level of responsibility on the girls side. Drinking is a choice. If you get drunk and then drive a car into a tree, it's not the cars fault.

Don't think I'm saying you and other women weren't raped. I'm truly sorry that happened and I respect women, which is why I'm so offended by your fraternity generalization. My problem is that you did not respond to some of these comments very well. Bashing the entire Greek system in your response to one ignorant comment is a offensive to a number of people at this school - individuals who might have originally supported you, like myself.

Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2013 8:15 AM

Your car/tree analogy is false and stupid. You're missing a driver: there is someone driving the car that hits the tree. The difference between a tree and the frat guy driving the car is that (presumably) the frat guy can exercise free will. What you are illustrating is the passivity at the heart of all arguments about women and rape. And your conception of frat guy (male) nature is also based on a logic that again abdicates responsibility for your actions: I don't care if a woman is walking around drunk and naked in a frat house. If you have sex with her without her consent, it's rape. How many times do you have to be told this? When people are not in a condition to exercise their judgment, you cannot have sex with them. This is why children can't make decisions for themselves. This is also why you can't have sex with children. "But women are adults" you say? Of course they are. And a woman who gets drunk at a frat party IS at fault and responsible: FOR GETTING DRUNK AT A FRAT PARTY AND NOTHING ELSE. This does not mean that she forfeits all her rights NOT TO BE RAPED. If you have sex with someone who is not in a position to give consent, YOU ARE RAPING THAT PERSON. If you "truly respect women," then stop perpetuating the kind of logic that helps frat guys like you commit rape. That's the best way to respect women.

Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2013 10:04 AM

You are really misinterpreting the meaning of the original post. This post isn't about defending anyone who had sex without consent, intoxicated or not, it is about the fact that actions by few have created a negative stereotype about fraternities that this article is further supporting. The author infers that fraternity parties are intentionally designed to facilitate rape, which is completely offensive to a lot of people in fraternities who support your cause. I do truly respect women, however, I do not respect you because you essentially called me a rapist and said my intention was to help other men commit rape, when that was not even my intention at all. It was about how taking responsibility for the way you drink on both sides can avoid putting two people in a situation where implied consent may be misconstrued as actual consent! Yes, responsibility definitely lies on the guy who thought implied consent was actual consent, however, alcohol is also an issue that needs to be addressed and without it I'm sure there are many situations that would have been avoided.

Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2013 2:58 PM

I didn't "essentially call you a rapist." I am exposing the logic of rape that you are inadvertently perpetuating. Show me the rare case in which both parties were so drunk as to misconstrue consent. Much more common is that one party takes advantage of another, or that an entire culture (frat culture) puts women in situations that will result in "misconstrued implied consent"--a category that is both mind bogglingly manipulative and predatory. Perhaps if frat culture ceased to think of women only as potential sexual partners, and ceased to consider their actions as merely indicative of sexual availability (giving off signs that might be "misconstrued"), I would respect your claim to "truly respect women." Respecting women does not mean exercising self-restraint. It means respecting the human right to exist free of the fear of rape. Show me that respect in your frat house. Show me how your frat house advocates responsible drinking and facilitates overt communication between sexes and advocates equality.

Petter (not verified) on October 3, 2013 1:48 AM

Problem is, you're not expressing a truth; you're lying to further the gynocentric agenda. You fools make it sound as if rape is part of the normative man's behaviour, a misandric belief that is delusional to say the least.

Campus rape is not common, but thanks to misandrists like you and conformist/borderline women, that myth is able to flourish.

Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2013 1:01 PM

Expressing a basic TRUTH, which is that sexual assault and rape ARE COMMON at USC FRATERNITIES, is not promoting a negative stereotype. It is calling attention to a problem that everyone knows EXISTS and yet nothing is done about it.

Petter (not verified) on October 3, 2013 1:50 AM

Of course. I am not advocating sleeping with passed out girls, but these people are just brainwashed feminists who want to place all the responsibility on men. Pro-tip: If you don't want to have sex with a guy don't get naked with him and pass out. Too big of a thing to give up, huh?

Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2013 12:03 AM

I agree with all points made here except one. If a girl gets naked in bed with a guy - that's baiting him with her body. If I did so, it would be foolish of me to expect him not to want sex. Claiming that the blackout drunk story, "I didn't remember therefore I didn't know what was going on", is a good enough excuse, is like blaming a man for rape that HE committed while blacked out. DOUBLE STANDARD.