In her book “The Beauty Myth,” Naomi Wolf famously said, “Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men’s eyes when deciding what provokes it.”
Clothes, alcohol, drugs and circumstances are not responsible for rape. However, our patriarchal culture frequently puts the responsibility for rape and assault on the victim.
According to the Association of American Universities, one of the largest-ever surveys on campus sexual assault, 23 percent of female college students said they experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact—ranging from kissing to touching to rape—carried out by force or threat of force, or while they were incapacitated because of alcohol and drugs.
Our society does little to combat these stigmas that promote rape culture, and instead we exacerbate it.
“What were you wearing?” “How much did you have to drink?” “Did you lead him on?” are questions frequently asked of victims of sexual assault.
At PCC, our own campus Clery Report suggests ways for potential victims to avoid assault such as, “take self-defense classes,” “control your alcohol” and “Do not allow your date an opportunity to be physically or emotionally abusive.”
The report does not list anything directed at potential perpetrators for how to treat their fellow students, or how not to behave.
According to Dean of Student Life Rebecca Cobb, the school is offering workshops and events to educate and inform members of the campus community on a range of related issues, including sexual assault, harassment, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, stalking and dating abuse.
However, more needs to be done. At present, the PCC curriculum does not offer any classes in gender theory in the categories of psychology, philosophy or sociology.
In fact, PCC’s Gender, Ethnicity, and Multiculural Studies degree only offers two classes addressing women’s studies—Women in American History and Women in Literature.
The issue is bigger than just rape. Women are also the targets of street harassment on a daily basis.
Street harassment is largely defined as unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent.
Street harassment includes unwanted whistling, leering, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no.
ThinkProgress reported that in one week, two women were violently attacked in episodes of street harassment.
One woman was shot and killed for refusing to give a man her number, and another woman had her throat slashed for rejecting a date with a man.
There is currently a Tumblr blog called “Women Who Refuse” filled with stories from women who have been violently attacked for refusing a man’s advances.
While the campus policy for handling issues of harassment and sexual assault looks good on paper, some students feel it’s not enough and do not trust the process.
The administration should take steps to offer more gender focused classes. The aforementioned workshops and events should be a campus staple every semester and be updated to reflect the current issues students are facing.
Additionally, specific workshops should be focused on men, and teaching them about consent, mutual respect and consequences for violating policies and laws.
In “We Should All Be Feminists,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stated, “We teach girls shame. ‘Close your legs. Cover yourself.’ We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire,” she said.
“They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up—and this is the worst thing we do to girls—they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form.”
Violence against women and girls is endemic worldwide. Female genital mutilation, honor killing, child brides, trafficking, grooming, rape and domestic violence are rampant in societies in which women are classed as second-class citizens.
While the U.S. may not experience the most extreme of these practices, our record of protecting victims of sexual violence is still abysmal, and something must be done, starting with our college campuses.