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Rape Culture in Oswego

It’s strange that real life often mirrors the things we study in class – I don’t know if this ever happens to any of you, but it seems to happen to me a lot. When I took a Latin American history class, that month I received a National Geographic that focused on Latin America. Somehow, my life always mirrors my classes.

This is not always a good thing, however. I am currently working on a project for my final Journalism class about rape culture and healing through writing. I’d like to share a story with you, about something that happened to myself and two of my friends this Friday night. It was kind of scary and (warning) this might contain triggers for some people. Sharing it, however, I think will make me feel better.

I went to see a few friends Friday night, and we hung out and drank tea and ate ice cream. We decided to get a movie, so we went to the local gas station, where there is a Redbox.

The three of us were casually standing by the Redbox,
trying to decide which movie to choose, when suddenly a group of older men appeared behind us. A few had beers in their hands and they were all talking loudly, swaying around, clearly drunk. Two approached us while the rest stood behind them, and started saying weird creepy things to us, calling themselves “predators” and asking how old we were. They got uncomfortably close, so my friend yelled at them to back off. Instead of backing up, at first, they continued to harass us, and were shortly joined by another group of their friends. My friend continued to yell at them to leave us alone until they finally walked away, but not without first saying we should have expected the attention because of what one of my friends was wearing (a dress… that went to her knees – not very short).

The group finally backed off and went back to their cars, where they sat staring at us and drinking beer. Luckily, a few guys I knew from my old dorm had seen the whole thing from another car and came over to make sure we were okay, and then waited until we had our movie and left before they left, too. We called the police and gave over the mens’ license plate numbers. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else we could do.

This whole experience was terrifying. I’ve never been surrounded by such a large group of older men like that, and felt so powerless. I literally froze, and couldn’t even think enough to say anything or even move my legs. The fact that the men acted outraged that we didn’t want their attention and then blamed us for it all because of what we wore is insulting and horrible. I believe that it does not matter what a woman wears – that doesn’t mean she wants the attention of a scary group of men, or even one man. This whole thing just shows that even my little college town isn’t free from rape culture – which is a culture in which rape and sexual violence is normalized and accepted.

I liked to think that Oswego was generally a good place. Certainly, the boys I knew made me feel like there is hope for this culture to end – they wanted only to make sure we felt safe. But the older men who surrounded and harassed us make me extremely angry. It is never okay for anyone to treat others this way.

I hope none of you have to experience something like this. But I’m sharing this with you just in case you ever find yourselves in a similar situation. Hopefully this story can help you.

Kaitlin Provost graduated from SUNY Oswego, majoring in journalism with a learning agreement in photography. She grew up in five different towns all over the Northeast, eventually settling and graduating from high school in Hudson, Massachusetts. Kait now lives in the blustery town of Oswego, New York, where she can frequently be found running around like a madwoman, avoiding snow drifts taller than her head (which, incidentally, is not very tall). She has worked for her campus newspaper, The Oswegonian, as the Assistant News Editor, and is also the President of the Oswego chapter of Ed2010, a national organization which helps students break into the magazine industry. She hopes to one day work for National Geographic and travel the world.
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