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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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