With the growing trend of disgusting rapists, and the increasing movement to stop disgusting rapists, the Obama administration has made it it their mission to educate us about disgusting rapists. The articles of legislation, including the California Assembly Bill 1088 and the Federal Violence Against Women Act, require college campuses to teach incoming students about issues relating to sexual assault, consent, dating/domestic violence, risk reduction strategies, bystander intervention, reporting options and survivor resources. UC Davis, therefore, uses the Violence Intervention & Prevention (VIP) program, transferred to an online program this past year, to both follow legislative orders and ensure that all students attending UC Davis are educated on this topic. And within the past few weeks, freshmen received emails requesting feedback about the VIP program. Here’s mine:
“When I went through those required videos at the beginning of the school year, I personally found them extremely impactful. Those powerful words spoken – by my suitemate as she explained her outfit dilemma to me while my computer was on mute – really resonated with me. And those quizzes at the end, they truly put my Google searching abilities to the test. I think I might have even accidentally read one of the questions as I was copy-pasting it into my search bar. Call me crazy, but I would even go so far as to say that with the VIP program, I learned as much about sexual assault as I learned about driving from Driver’s Ed.”
But in all seriousness, I knew squat about what was in those videos. My friends, neighbors and classmates knew squat about what was in those videos. Yet here we all are, walking around campus as “educated individuals” according to Davis, Obama and anyone else with a knack for lying to themselves.
How were we supposed to care about preventing ourselves from something too terrifying to seem realistic? If you made me watch a video called “Mosquito Bite Intervention and Prevention,” before I went camping, I’d probably take diligent notes. Because yes, I do want to prevent myself from getting a painfully itchy mosquito bite, and everybody talks about how easy it is to get bitten when you’re in nature.
But nobody talks about how easy it is to get raped when you’re in college. Nobody looked me in the eye and said, “This can happen to YOU.” So nobody cares about the Violence Intervention & Prevention program because nobody has been taught to understand rape as something that actually happens. It’s a terrifying thought, of course, but it’s not doing us any good to pretend that it doesn’t happen. It does happen and it happens here, at Davis – to my friends, my loved ones, to me. So I can tell you, from personal experience, that the emotional and physical trauma of rape stings a hell of a lot more than a mosquito bite.
When I went back to watch the VIP program this weekend, this time not on mute and not while simultaneously painting my nails, I learned a few things. I learned that “prevention” isn’t necessarily for the person getting raped. No, the real prevention lies in the hands of everybody else. It lies in our power, as a culture, to prevent ourselves from unknowingly invalidating a victim’s feelings about their devastating experience. It lies in our power to prevent ourselves from traumatizing somebody just as much as his/her rapist did. And this powerful prevention – it lies in the 10 minute video we were too lazy to watch.
The video addressed common phrases said to victims, like: “Oh, it wasn’t THAT bad, I mean he did love you,” “Well, you were really drunk so it was kind of your fault,” “Are you sure you want to report him? It was only bad for you for one night. It’ll be bad for him for the rest of his life. How could you do that to him?” and, “You wanted to do things before, so how was he supposed to know you didn’t then?” I know these sound like stupid, overused examples, but when your own friend, your own suitemate says them to you – out of nothing but sheer ignorance – they don’t sound so stupid anymore.
By educating ourselves about rape, we’re not “protecting ourselves from getting raped.” Terrible things happen and, as much as we might try, we can’t hide from all of the monsters that live in our closets. But we can understand what behavior is and isn’t OK. We can learn to talk about rape more openly and learn to support those who need our help the most.
I don’t know how to make people aware of our rape problem any more then the VIP program does. If I did, I would be a genius. I’m not. I’m just a girl who once couldn’t help but laugh at the terrible acting in those mandatory videos, and now can’t help but cry at their painful reality. I’m a girl who needed a horrible experience to want to deal with the issue of rape in our campus and our world — but you can be a person who just needed an extremely blunt article to want to deal with it too.
Like her bluntness? Contact MADDY PETTIT at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graphic by Jennifer Wu.