U’s rape-free zone trivializes serious issue

by By Kenneth

The University of Minnesota is a rape-free zone this week. The writing isn’t on the wall, but rather on the sidewalks. The sidewalks, of course, are where every rapist looks as one chooses one’s next victim. Rape is one of the most terrible crimes any human can commit against another. Although the 12th Annual Rape Free Zone rally Monday afternoon and the rape-free zone proclamation appear to make sense on the surface, if one spends more than a minute thinking about it, several questions come to mind: What does one do at a rally against rape? Who gains from politicizing a crime? And what is the goal of the anti-rape activists?
The idea of a rape-free zone is an interesting one. If it is so incredibly effective, why don’t we declare the entire country a rape-free zone, from now until eternity?
It’s interesting to think about the concept of an anti-rape rally and to let the imagination run wild. First, women (and perhaps some men) could line up outside of a tent on Northrop Mall. After making their way to the front of the line, they sign a petition declaring they do not wish to be raped. Then they are given a button stating so, which they proudly wear for the rest of the day.
Next, members of the rape-free organizing committee speak to small groups of participants. They use dolls to demonstrate various forms of rape and sexual assault. Afterward, there is a question-and-answer session with a person who was raped 25 years ago and can’t work to this day because of it. Finally, as everyone leaves, they are asked to fill out a survey entitled “You may have been raped if …” If they answer “yes” to one or more of the questions, they should call the police immediately.
No one should joke about rape. However, the aura of politics and activism that surrounds it should be viewed with suspicion.
Again, the idea seems novel at first: to denounce the violation of one human being’s rights by another. In practice, however, the idea loses most of its steam. Against whom are you speaking out? The politically powerful pro-rape activist group?
The overwhelming majority of rapists realize what they are doing is wrong; telling them so won’t change their behavior. It takes parents, but not necessarily a village, to instill the values of right and wrong in their children. A one-hour rally on Northrop Mall will not reverse 15 years of childhood experience that manufacture a criminal.
When will the problem be solved? When more laws are passed may be one answer. We don’t need any new laws. Obviously, the ideal outcome is to eliminate rape altogether. However, the means by which people attempt to achieve this end are curious.
What would be a satisfactory outcome of Monday’s rally? Perhaps it would be to get 10 more people to admit they were raped, or maybe to increase compassion for past victims. The most obvious, and most naive, expectation is a drop in the incidence of the crime. This is especially troublesome because of the false sense of security it provides. I can imagine a rape victim talking with a member of the rape-free organizing committee. “I was raped,” says the victim. “Hmm, that’s odd,” replies the committee member, “We held a rally, …”
If we take these so-called preventative actions to their logical ends, what should we expect next? Maybe the entire student population needs to be raped in order to understand. Any prospective criminal would, thereafter, take his or her own experience into account before deciding to rape someone (it is a decision, not a disease). Perhaps we could use a committee to organize this immediately.
The bottom line is an obvious one, and perhaps even the easiest to pursue. It starts with raising kids properly and teaching them to understand and respect others’ rights. Beyond that, the price for rape (or any other violent crime) needs to be so high that no one would consider paying it. No one favors rape. The organizers of this week’s rape-free zone festivities are doing the University a great disservice. They are diverting the precious resources needed to pursue more effective methods of prevention. By declaring the University a rape-free zone this week, the organizers are implying that rape is passively preventable.
Finally, the activism they exhibit serves no meaningful purpose. It does not stop rapists, but gives everyone involved a sense they are doing something about the problem. One out of every four women is too many, and until people begin to evaluate the effectiveness of their actions, very little will be done to decrease that number.

Kenneth Reily is a sophomore in the Institute of Technology.