Rape warrants more education, concern

Rape is one of the most heinous and life-destroying crimes. Having never been seriously harassed, let alone sexually assaulted, I can personally say very little from a victim’s vantage point, but thousands can attest to the irreparable psychological and emotional damage that survivors must endure every day of their lives.
Already, during these first few weeks of fall semester, two incidents of rape have been reported to campus police, and at least two other rapes have been reported in the metropolitan area at large.
On Sept. 28, a man wearing a Halloween mask and wielding a knife broke into a New Hope woman’s apartment. After binding her wrists and assaulting the 20-year-old, he escaped, but a suspect was eventually arrested and charged and is now being held at the Hennepin County Jail.
On Oct. 6 at St. Paul Central High School, three male students, all aged 17 or 18, raped a 15-year-old girl after she had been excused from class to go to the bathroom. The boys lured the girl to a locked room near the auditorium and raped her. Three students have been suspended and charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct.
Hitting somewhat closer to home, on Oct. 3 an unidentified man threatened a 46-year-old woman at gunpoint on the East River Flats Park and then raped her. The police composite sketch of him appears below. No suspect has been arrested yet.
In an incident that might be considered a more “typical” rape for college campuses, a male University student reportedly took an 18-year-old woman to the attic of the Zeta Psi fraternity house during a Sept. 29 party and raped her. He immediately left, and she came downstairs a little later, crying hysterically with blood on her arm, according to police reports.
Four rapes reported in less than 10 days. And these only in or around Minneapolis.
Like any other crime, rape isn’t something that happens to someone else in some faraway place. According to national statistics, by the time you finish snoozing through your 50-minute sociology lecture, 10 rapes will have occurred. Nearly one-fifth of women report experiencing a completed or attempted rape at some time in their lives. And these are only the recorded crimes. Studies estimate that more than 90 percent of rapes go unreported. Rape occurs far more often than anyone should care to comfortably admit.
Most of us try to insulate ourselves against the ugliness of our world, willingly unaware of reality’s harshness. But there comes a time when we must openly and honestly confront these problems and their sources.
Granted, with sexual-assault support groups gaining more exposure and voice, the general public has become much more informed on rape issues. But stereotypes and untruths still infect the public sphere, and rape still occurs. Education must continue.
First of all, let me remind you that no one “deserves” to be raped; the victim is never at fault. Yes, you’ve seen this message hundreds of times before, but why then do I still hear people saying, “She was just asking for it. Did you see the way she was dressed/behaving/flirting/talking?”
Please, people. Wake up and use a little logic before opening your mouths.
Just because a woman happens to be wearing a skirt that might be a little too short according to arbitrarily set social rules, this entails that she is asking for her entire future to be torn away from her? Riiiight. Or if a man happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the blame rests with him and not the perpetrator.
I’ve seen obnoxious individuals on the bus screaming their lungs out two inches away from the driver’s face, upset about a missed stop. Does that mean the driver has the right to blast their heads into smithereens? The answer is obviously no, despite the favor the driver would be doing to the evolutionary pool. But an innocent man on the “wrong” street or a woman wearing what might be considered “provocative” clothing isn’t even physically or psychologically harming anyone, let alone asking to be hurt.
I admit that certain guidelines of behavior can be followed to protect oneself to the fullest. When thousands of tourists flock to Europe’s shores in the summer, tour guides have already warned them to wear their valuables in a money belt or close to their bodies. When cab drivers work on New Year’s Eve, they are always a little more alert, aware that drunk drivers are careening around the neighborhood. Preventive and precautionary measures can be taken to avoid becoming targeted.
But even so, in any offense, the assailant is always at fault. And it has never been a crime to be naive or to be ignorant.
Secondly, a “no” means no. Again, this is another well-publicized message, but yet, so many people refuse to acknowledge what they hear. Remember your mom asking what part of “no” you didn’t understand? The same rules apply here. No matter what you “think” a person’s body language is telling you, no matter what your own hormones might be telling you, a “no” can never be reinterpreted to mean “yes,” “maybe” or “I don’t know.” Enn-ooh. No. End of story. Understand its meaning now, and you might save yourself 10 years of contemplating that word alone in your cell.
Thirdly, no rape is “typical” for the survivor; never forget the true horror of this crime when reading all the numbers, statistics and public service messages out there.
Instead, use these facts to start understanding how to protect yourself and under what conditions crimes like rape are more common or, frighteningly, more encouraged.
Study after study have shown a correlation between fraternities and rape. At the University of New Hampshire, fraternity members have been overrepresented in sexual assaults and account for 50 percent to 70 percent of reported rapes, even though they only account for 10 percent of the student population. In another study about sorority members, almost half of those who had suffered rape had been in a fraternity house, and over half of the rapes occurred either during a fraternity function or were perpetrated by members.
Studies have also shown a correlation between rape and alcohol, which fraternity parties almost always feature in large abundance. The Zeta Psi party combined both of these explosive elements, which might have resulted in tragic consequences.
While the assailant wasn’t technically a member of Zeta Psi, in an ideal world, everyone at the party should have been held responsible. A fellow student, an innocent woman, was victimized and raped in the attic while everyone was partying downstairs. How stomach-wrenching is that? Any one of those party-goers could have been a little more alert, a little more aware of the interactions between fellow students.
But in reality, everyone was drunk or involved in their own little social circles, and the woman’s friends, if she had any with her, were neither paying attention or particularly watching out for one another.
While such stories as these are told year after year to incoming freshmen and while programs on campus strive to educate the University population about sexual violence, these horrors still occur. We still haven’t learned our lesson, and women and men are still becoming rape victims.
Rape is a crime of domination, humiliation and power. These survivor’s lives and futures have been upended and crushed, never to be the same again. How would you like to watch your life, your self-image corrode away in mere minutes, left to struggle to reconstruct all the pieces years later?
Avoid that experience. Guard your body and your mind, and watch out for yourself and your friends.

Samantha Pace’s column appears every other Monday. She welcomes comments to [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]