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Asking for it

Katrina Linden | Wednesday, September 25, 2013

“I don’t understand how non-violent rape even happens.”

I have encountered a variety of opinions while at Notre Dame, the most interesting of which – like the one above – require a great deal of patience and tolerance.

As a generally open-minded individual, validating most opinions is not too difficult, but when a male student shared this gem, I had a hard time comprehending and digesting what exactly he meant.

There is a difference between regretting a sexual encounter and being legitimately raped, I agree, as this is the point he was apparently attempting to make. However, I am afraid that somewhere in this boy’s life, somebody forgot to make sure he knew how to differentiate between the two. I wanted to be angry with him, I wanted to pour my drink all over his disillusioned head, slap him in disgust and walk away. But what would that have accomplished? Rather, I think the more effective route would be to realize if one individual holds this view on rape, there must be a handful of others with the same opinion.

Non-violent rape is a thing. We all attended the campus safety course freshman year, so no need to relive it. But no one say, “Why didn’t she run, fight back or yell?” without understanding that for some, it is impossible. With the dismissal of rape accusations, as well as the rise of numerous reports on our campus in the past year, I think he was just sucked into the “Rape Culture” that everybody keeps trying to make a social phenomenon in order to defend disgusting monsters and to validate naive opinions.

It is not even this one comment that has set me off on this tangent. It is the acculturation of phrases like “forcible fondling” and “Rape Road” that devalues legitimate situations of fear on campus. I do not want to be walking home from a friend’s apartment at night and have to fear being attacked by a random creep in the bushes. I do not want to be running around the lake at dusk and have to check over my shoulder constantly to make sure that nobody is following me while I grip my hot pink pepper spray in one hand and keep my phone’s Emergency Call function one digit away from 911 in the other. I do not want to be at a dorm party and be unable to trust a friendly male acquaintance. But society tells me, as a female, not to put myself in these types of situations, when realistically the latter is significantly more risky than the others.

But why should we live in fear? Why can we not instead tell our boys (and girls) not to rape, to treat females as humans, not as objects, and to respect a woman’s fashion choices, however risqué they may be? I realize it is a tiring argument we have all heard before, but something as serious as rape needs to be readdressed constantly until it is hammered into certain individuals’ thick skulls.

However, I am no saint, as I am just as guilty as the next closed-minded individual in using the phrases throughout this article jokingly, ignoring the further implications of creating a mockery of serious rape accusations. After having written this piece I have realized what a desensitizing effect the use of sexual assault related terms has had on myself, as I am sure it has had on many others.

It has generally come to the point that when a female announces she has received undesired and unprovoked sexual advances and demands justice the male undergoes minor investigation, while the female is scrutinized thoroughly, questioned about her past relationships, encounters and every other insignificant event that led up to her rape. Though I cannot speak for policies in place at Notre Dame, I can speak for the greater female student body in stating that there seems to be an obvious social stigma against reporting rape and sexual assault due to the overwhelming Catholic moral standings of many students and the holier-than-thou mentality many students hold on their own.

It would not surprise me to find that a woman may fail to report sexual assault on campus due to this simple fact. As it is her fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people and she should probably be more careful next time. Perhaps this is all an exaggeration, but mainstream media accepts rape as a sign of changing times by criminalizing rape victims and overusing the defense, “boys will be boys.” But, I digress. She is always just “asking for it.”

To end on a positive note, I applaud the recent actions of the Student Government for addressing the recent victims of sexual assault on Notre Dame’s campus with the Sexual Assault Prayer Service. It is events like these that bring our student body together in unity, hopefully sparking an even greater discussion on an overwhelming and increasingly common occurrence.

Katrina Linden is a sophomore English major with a Studio Art minor living in Lewis Hall. She can be reached at klinden1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.