have allowed a heinous and inexplicable culture of rape to flourish on our college campuses. The New York Times ran an exhaustive front-page account of an 18-year-old
girl who was raped at a
fraternity on the campuses of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York.
The story was as much about the small, liberal arts school’s mishandling of the
case as it was rape on campus. When will we stop blaming the victim? Why aren't the boys committing the crime being publicly shamed?
The line of the school’s defenders is that a) they did
the best they could, given that they are not experts, and b) what are you going
to do when the girl in question (who allowed the Times to use her first name, Anna) was black-out drunk? In a
study by the National Institute of Justice, campus rape victims who had been
incapacitated by drugs or alcohol said they rarely reported their attacks to
police, and a third of them said they didn’t realize a crime had been committed.
I don’t write of these things dispassionately — my daughter is a college senior (in Chicago) and though she has not been raped there, she had some scary encounters in her teen years and, yes, drugs and alcohol were involved. I think she learned from those experiences and I’m a great believer in personal responsibility, but why doesn’t that apply to young men in our society?
When my daughter was in high school, she had a lot of friends from other private schools in New York. The ones I was wariest of (with good reason, it turned out) were the boys whose good liberal parents — architects, TV producers, ob-gyns — had no idea what their sons were up to. Did they talk to them about protection, respect, “no means no”? Seemingly not.
Annie C. Clark, who co-founded a group called
End Rape on Campus, recounts reporting being
raped to an administrator at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill only
to be told, "Rape is like football: If you look back on the
game — and you're the quarterback, Annie — is there anything you would have done
quarterback"? How about: "You’re the football"?
In the 2012 Steubenville case, in
which a 16-year-old girl was violated by pair of high school athletes, more was
made of the degradation that occurred after the rape via social media than the
assault itself. Here, too, the girl was blacked out from alcohol (who needs
roofies?) and much of the commentary in the news and social media called into
question her “judgment” (how was your judgment at 16?) and the damage done to
her assailants, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Hayes, who were convicted in juvenile
court of the rape of a minor.
Poppy Harlow, reporting live from the trial on CNN said
it was "incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like
me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising
futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they
believed their lives fell apart.”
And yes, Poppy Harlow is a woman.
It would take all the space on the Internet to explore
what happened to our society’s regard for women — our daughters, our sisters,
our wives — and how feminism failed to make inroads into the more piggish
backwash of the male psyche. In the 2011 rom-com "Crazy, Stupid, Love" Ryan Gosling plays a cad who says, “The war
between the sexes is over; we won the second women started pole dancing for
But blaming women and girls for embracing a culture that celebrates
activities (and attire) that used to be reserved for hookers is no better than
saying women in short skirts are asking to be raped. I just didn’t know people
were still saying that in my country — on college campuses, no less.
One of the more hopeful stories that came out of the
Steubenville case was that of Deric Lostutter, a
member of the hacker collective Anonymous. The twentysomething Kentucky man
(who, for the record, did not go to college but dropped out of high school to
help support his family) began by outing members of the Westboro “God Hates
Fags” Church, appearing in videos wearing the customary Guy Fawkes mask.
news of the Steubenville rape case broke, Lostutter struck again, threatening
to expose the rapists, as well as those who spread videos and pictures of the
victims and the adults who tried to cover up their crimes, "unless
all accused parties come forward by New Year's Day and issue a public apology to
the girl and her family."
Along with other members of Anonymous, Lostutter uploaded
offensive videos and tweets by friends of the rapists — who, of course,
objected, saying in essence that their insults were being taken out of context.
He was raided by the FBI and despite (or because of) the support he has
received, he faces charges that could result in ten years in prison — ten times
what either of the rapists received. (Where’s Poppy Harlow now?)
The idea of publicly shaming rapists seems to have some
traction; if newspapers can publish the names of those arrested for
solicitation, and there are no laws to protect victims of sexual assault from
humiliation on social media, why not use the same tools against those who
commit the crimes? But let’s be as brave as Lostutter has been about it. Let’s show the villains' faces.