Leaving work one night, I stopped to wait for my manager so we could walk out together. He was still working, so he told me I could go. I automatically hesitated.
He noticed right away. “Come on, I’ll walk you out so the boogeyman doesn’t get you.”
When a woman goes out at night, it seems only natural for her to want to wait to be escorted out by someone. It’s become a part of life to wait so that you don’t have to walk alone, to always be a part of a buddy system. It is another necessary precaution, a way to ease the fear that has become ingrained in the psyche of all women.
Some days, it seems that women are more powerful than ever. Other times, it seems that we are more fearful. Some of that undoubtedly has to do with the fact that the crime of rape seems to have captured the public’s attention. From Todd Akin, the “legitimate rape” congressman, to the victims of Ariel Castro, to the young woman at Columbia University who carries her mattress with her in protest of her treatment after her rape, it seems that the topic has never been more prevalent.
Unfortunately, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), “[one] out of every [six] American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.”
Over the last several years, the topic of sexual assaults on college campuses has been frequently discussed and heatedly debated. One of the most powerful quotes about it comes from TCNJ’s The Signal. In the Oct. 1, 2013 issue, Regina Yorkgitis wrote an article titled “Students Protest Rape with Slutwalk.” In this article, she quotes Dr. Marla Jaksch, professor of Women and Gender Studies, as having said, “The idea that you can protect yourself from rape implies that you messed up.”
Why do we, as a society, do this? Why do we tell survivors of rape that they should have tried harder to not end up in this situation? We feel sorry for the survivor, but simultaneously shrug it off, thinking that they could have done more. In the meantime, the rapist often all but gets away with it. Sometimes, they even do get away with it. According to RAINN, “97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.”
Emma Sulkowicz, the senior at Columbia University who has been carrying her mattress in protest of the way Columbia handled her rape investigation, has brought the epidemic of rape on college campuses to the forefront of the country’s attention. Finally, it seems that someone has been able to tear the cover off of the issue, to bring to light the fact that rapes happen on college campuses—even Ivy League campuses—only to, oftentimes, get swept under the rug.
According to The Daily Beast’s rankings of all 458 college campuses in the United States (excluding 2-year institutions) New Jersey’s colleges rank from Rutgers University at #3 to Fairleigh Dickinson University at #433. Between all fifteen campuses, there were 208 reported rapes in the state from 2007-2010. And those are only the reported ones as rape tends to be an under-reported crime with 60% of rapes never reported to police, according to RAINN.
Princeton University had 55 reported rapes in that time period. Montclair University had 32. Rutgers had 28.
Athena Georgiou, a junior at TCNJ, isn’t surprised. “[School administrators] don’t care about things like that. All that matters is maintaining their name. If they can hide what’s really happening—and clearly they have the money to do so—then I’m sure they do.” It has become increasingly apparent that sexual assault is very prevalent on the campuses of Ivy League schools. With their exorbitant tuition rates and the rest of the money coming into the campus from donors, taxpayers, and alumni, they have more than enough money to sweep incidents under the rug in order to cover up the fact that these crimes are happening.
Kate Thomas, a senior at Kean University (#344, with 10 rapes in the last three years), says she feels “pretty safe” on her campus. “I mean, there are times when it’s late at night and I’m walking back to my dorm, but I have the campus cops’ numbers and [my roommate and I] have a system,” Thomas adds. When either of them leaves a late class, they text the other when they get out. After that, they have 10 minutes to get back to their dorm, or the other will begin searching.
Georgiou does not feel the same. “Think about it. When you walk from the parking lot to class, how many of those [emergency call boxes] do you actually see? I can think of one going from Lot 5 to the Social Sciences [Building]. And it’s not even on the path. I don’t think I’d be able to outrun my attacker, push the button, and wait however long it takes for police to show up.”
Not only that, but she doubts the other students would help, either. “Honestly, the students on campus don’t care about anyone but themselves, so if I were screaming for help, I honestly don’t think any of them would even turn to look, [let alone] help.”
Over at Rowan (#184, with 6 rapes in the last three years), senior Chemical Engineering major Jasmine Naik says she also feels safe on her campus.
However, when presented with the statistics, she admitted, “I believe it.”
These days, it seems pretty easy to believe when you hear the statistics. It’s easy to believe that it could happen to you, yet so many still say, “It could never happen to me.”
A woman might think to herself, “I take all the necessary precautions. I don’t get drunk, I don’t do drugs, I don’t wear short skirts, I don’t go anywhere alone. I don’t put myself in bad situations, so it could never happen to me.”
But that’s just it. You can never tell what situation will be the one that ends in sexual assault. Just because you get drunk doesn’t mean you’ll get raped. Just because you don’t drink doesn’t mean someone won’t put a roofie in your soda.
Just because you don’t walk out to your car alone doesn’t mean that the guy walking with you won’t try to attack you.
According to RAINN, approximately 2/3 of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.
For those women to which it did happen, there is a struggle not to shrink and hide. They ask the questions they thought they’d never ask, condemn themselves for their imagined lack of preparedness.
Did I do enough to keep this from happening? I guess my skirt was too short. I guess I drank too much. I guess I led him on. We were having consensual sex, I mean, you can’t just stop in the middle of it.
Thomas says, “I think that you can try [to] protect yourself, but I don’t think anyone messes up if they are raped. It’s not their fault that they were raped. It’s [the fault of] the sick person…who did it.”
The fact of the matter is that no means no. Simple enough, right? No means no, maybe means no, even yes can turn into no.
In a turn of events leaving many feeling hopeful, men have been joining the fight for women’s rights more than ever, with campaigns to end domestic violence and celebrities jumping on board the #HeforShe campaign. But there still seems to be a lack of campaigning to end rape.
It’s so difficult to change the culture, but people in this country have been trying harder than ever to make a difference. Part of that goal has been to end the stigma that comes with rape and force the rapists to endure the criticism that is normally heaped upon the survivor.
Unfortunately, it will take a lot to truly change the game, to bring an end to this culture of rape. However, for the survivors, the hope for change can be all that keeps them going.