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Rapes not ‘inevitable’

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, April 5, 2007

I was dismayed to read the comments made by Sister Denise Lyon in Tuesday’s story about an ongoing rape investigation at Notre Dame (“Assault investigation continues as ‘rape’ case,” April 3), particularly her claim that rapes at Notre Dame are “inevitable.” To describe rape as “inevitable” is to suggest that it is unavoidable, unstoppable and inescapable; to describe rape as “inevitable” is to suggest that there is nothing that can be done to end rape and sexual assault. The truth could not be further from this view. There is nothing at all “inevitable” about rape – rape is an act of violence and requires the willful decision of one human being to sexually assault another. Given that rapes are committed almost exclusively by men – according to national crime statistics, 99.8 percent of the people in prison convicted of rape are men – I would hope that male readers of The Observer would also be alarmed to see rape described as “inevitable.” It is not “inevitable” that men rape women; men are not inherently rapists. Men can choose to work to end rape and sexual assault, and I, for one, am encouraged by the growing number of men around the world who are actively involved in the movement to end sexual violence. I only wish Lyon would join us in this movement, and then maybe she would realize that rape is a preventable act of violence, not an “inevitable” part of female experience or male biology.

Dr. Astrid Henry


Women’s Studies and English

Saint Mary’s College

April 3