I was quite dismayed to hear about the UVA gang rape allegations, but I was not surprised. Not even a little bit. You may think me heartless but sexual assault, especially in colleges in the United States, happens every single day. It happens, and it happens a lot. The problem is that it is vastly underreported. That is why I found the huge public reaction to the article put out by Rolling Stone so incredibly disappointing. As soon as this bad-boy hit every social media platform across the interwebs, people lost their shit. And, don’t get me wrong…they should! People fucking should lose their shit. But the way this issue has been hyper-sensationalized speaks volumes about the lack of awareness surrounding rape culture in big universities, namely UVA. In an article for Slate magazine, Bonnie Gordon writes,
“If anyone at the University of Virginia was shocked by this article, then they have not been paying attention.”
Damn straight. If public perception does not encompass an understanding of rape as a problem that has remained overwhelmingly repressed, underrepresented, and pervasive in college communities then we need to WAKE THE FUCK UP.
Let me reiterate how glad I am Rolling Stone published this article. It’s great. I am not, however, glad about sad truth that it takes a magazine with Rolling Stone‘s status and reputability to create such an uproar on UVA’s campus. People need to realize while the media sets the agenda, meaning it decides what we talk about. If Rolling Stone or John Stewart or CNN aren’t talking about rape, doesn’t mean that we can’t. Gordon points out that, “UVA does not need shock. It needs sustained anger and energy.”
That sustained anger and energy cannot stop with UVA—the rest of this country needs to follow suit. Rape is not a new phenomenon and it certainly is not one that is retreating any time soon. A few articles here, a few protests there are nothing. An unhealthy dose of awareness is what our forsaken college campus culture needs. And fast.
I have spent the last 4 years of my ripening adulthood at a public university and now confirm the following ideas:
- The college campus environment perpetuates a false sense of security, a “safe space,” if you will, free of the very real responsibilities of the outside world (i.e. we live in a bubble ridden with skewed perceptions of the real world.)
- Students, both male and female, have created, enabled, and sustained a dangerous rape culture in the college bubble they reside.
- Awareness of rape culture is at ground zero.
So, before you freak out about this gang rape report (and please do throw a fit. It is warranted) consider all the silenced truths, repressed voices, and victims too afraid to come forward. Think about all the cases that were swept under the filthy rug that maintains a university’s “pristine” reputation and prestige. Think about all the men and women who have been sexually assaulted and will never receive the justice they deserve. Because, that is what we should be surprised about. Not just a single case, on a single occasion. Sustained anger and energy.