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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Rape? Yes, I do want to talk about it: Why sexual assault prevention is ridiculous

Before you came to college, your parents probably sat you down, poured you a cup of tea and warned you of all the dangers that accompany your soon-to-come freedom.  While you cringed uncomfortably, Dad went on about his wild college adventures and gave you the overused advice, “Beer before liquor, never sicker; liquor before beer, never fear!” Mom laughed awkwardly, pretending like she had no idea if that was true or not, and proceeded to lecture you about the high risk of sexual assault on college campuses.

She might have said something like, “Just don’t walk alone at night, don’t dress too provocatively and always stay with your friends.  If you do those things, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Trust me, you can avoid getting raped.”  You smiled obligingly while shoving their words towards the very back corner of your brain. “That would never happen to me anyways,” you thought.

But as you adjusted to college life, you realized that most people don’t take their mother’s advice. You realized that a safe college campus by day could be a sea of impending danger by night. And you realized – as you watched countless creepy guys lure your drunk friends up to their rooms – that sexual assault occurs just about as frequently as your Chem midterms.

So the real question then, is how can you protect yourself when the reality of your culture is driven by sexual violence? How can you be the one to avoid the trauma, the one who made the smart decision?

Yes, it is your choice if you want to drink or not. It is your choice how revealing you want your outfit to be and whether or not you want roam the dark streets at night. But does that mean it is your responsibility to lock yourself in a cave your whole life to avoid getting sexually assaulted?

By enforcing a set of “risk reduction strategies” we are implying that ultimately, it is the victim’s responsibility to not get raped.  If there was an alternative choice, i.e., not drinking that night, then the choice to drink was directly correlated with the “deserved” outcome. It implies that if the victim chose to wear a gigantic ill-fitting garbage bag instead of a flattering dress, the victim could have avoided his/her inevitable fate.

It is a completely unfair double standard that some are able to go off to college, go out to parties, be a little reckless, drink a little too much and wake up with a harmless hangover while others must wake to the total objectification of their bodies.

College is the first time in our lives we are finally able to explore new opportunities freely, and it is unfair to deprive some people of those experiences because our culture has trained us to live in fear. If I want to go out with my friends, wear something cute, drink a little bit and mingle with others, I shouldn’t have to be constantly worrying that my words and actions are going to tempt some guy to the point of no return.  But I do.

So is there an answer to the question “How can I avoid getting raped?” There is an answer, but not a fair one.  If you are content with wearing that extra sized trash bag, by all means go for it.  (I recommend the scented one).  But if not, let’s start with accepting the ramifications of our perverted culture and educating ourselves about the frequency and devastation of sexual assault.  Then maybe, just maybe, I can leave my dorm with a tank top on.

Like her bluntness? Contact Maddy Pettit for more information at mepettit@ucdavis.edu.

Graphic by Jennifer Wu.

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