One of the very first conversations I had with a friend of mine followed him missing the mandatory freshman seminar on conduct in college, including the discussion of consent. He looked at us and laughed, saying “I guess I get one free rape then.” I think we laughed with him, rolling our eyes but not objecting to his awful statement.
We brush off “jokes” like this all the time, acting like it’s okay to say it as long as it doesn’t actually happen. That’s the issue, though: it is happening.
In relatively recent events, Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court despite the fact that he has been accused of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford. At seventeen, he went after a fifteen-year-old girl and hasn’t faced any consequences. He even ended up on the Supreme Court. Despite accusations of rape.
Kaili Joy Gray, the managing editor of ShareBlue media, posted this on twitter:
While Gray herself shows a large amount of bias toward a particular political party, the truth behind her words is still there. Ford has to put herself forward, something that she did back in 2012 as well, in order to make everyone aware of what Kavanaugh has done in the past. With that, she gets attacked by the media.
A good place to start to see the issue within our society against the victims is the comments on this very tweet. The top comments are denouncing Ford, not praising the bravery that it took to come forward. Within the very first comment, someone doubts the truth because she waited so long to come forward, mockingly stating that “I know the incredible bravery of waiting until the most politically opportune moment to come out with a story that can’t be proven or disproven. That’s some real bravery there to not come out when something could actually be done but 35 years later when your party needs you”. The second comment that isn’t replying to this person defends Kavanaugh, saying he can’t be a rapist because he’s a “professional”.
So a man isn’t a rapist just because he’s a professional? Sexual assault couldn’t have happened because someone was scared to bring it forward because of these very responses? Come on, people.
This isn’t about politics, because the other party would be just as willing to ignore it for power. It’s about the fact that we see these situations and our first response is to blame the woman for ruining a man’s chance at life, be it his place on the swim team or his chance at Supreme Court. As if what has occurred didn’t destroy at least a part of her life.
In an English course I’m taking we came to the conclusion that society is less about the rules and more of an invisible hand that takes yours and guides you through life. It steers you away from things it doesn’t want you to do and leads you toward the ideals that others, also being lead by this hand, have agreed upon as decent. Society is a series of conversations and interactions that exist between us and the others around us.
So, what does this say about our society?
At what point do we admit that as a society we are just misogynistic? Guys get this “free pass” to rape just because they are still maturing or have a future, but no one stops to consider that so did that girl. She’s the one who is now traumatized, not only from what occurred but by the fact that instead of receiving support when she comes forward, people act like she is the one doing the attacking. Women, girls, and females matter too.
What about the fact that politicians think they can decide what to do with our bodies? Kavanaugh was pushed through because of his thoughts on abortion, telling us that we can’t have control over our own bodies when he forcibly took control of someone else when she told him no. Why are women considered to be secondhand citizens?
Even if this one case was taken seriously, would it change anything? It doesn’t help the girls with ‘smaller’ cases who will still be sneered at by those who believe that they just want fame. No one becomes famous for rape allegations. Ford will fade into the past, possibly mentioned as a small nuisance in some higher level history course in the future. Even as I write this, the story is considered old news and unworthy of our time. The mindset of the country needs to shift from blaming the woman for coming forward to forcing the man to pay for his actions. Actions have consequences.
As for false accusations as a whole, statistically rape is not falsely reported at a rate any higher than any other crime, yet we attack those who come forward for it. No one attacks your neighbor who just got robbed. “Oh, yeah. They just want the money to put a pool in their backyard. Nobody gets robbed in this neighborhood.” Yet everyone jumps on the internet to tell some poor girl that she must be lying about rape.
Next time someone tells you that “she was asking for it” or “she’s lying, otherwise she would have told ages ago”, stop talking to them. It’s not that they don’t believe that girl, it’s that they have demonstrated that they do not respect women on any level.
Before I wrote this article, I searched rape on the Her Campus website to see if what I was planning to write was something that had already been done. There were 3,768 articles that came up in the results. That being said, some articles are out there that discuss a similar topic but avoid the term, like the author who used “fraternity culture” in an article from 2010 instead. This is prevalent, common, and unescapable.
Change takes time but, more importantly, it takes awareness and people being willing to talk about it rather than brushing it under the rug. It can’t be ignored any longer.
As for that friend, with his “one free rape”, I pray he doesn’t genuinely believe himself when he says it.