“However, it’s important to note that the GTPD isn’t the only organization that should attempt to create a culture of safety. The Women’s Resource Center should make it part of their mission to provide programming to encourage student safety on campus.”
This quotation from the Technique’s last consensus opinion is concerning to us, the members of the Women’s Awareness Month committee, for several reasons. One being that it makes apparent that the Technique has not looked too closely at the Women’s Resource Center mission statement or programming. If they had, they would have noticed that the WRC does more than work toward a “culture of safety.” They actively strive to alter societal misconceptions about violence against women and break the vicious cycle of rape culture that we live in.
This leads to another concerning part of the opinion piece, the omission of that word: rape. While, thankfully, none of the recent attacks on female students led to rape, lumping these sexual assaults under the common heading of student security issues is indicative of the exact problem the WRC tries to address: the refusal to confront rape out loud.
To give credit where it is due, the GTPD has done excellent work in building student confidence in them, as evidenced by the rapid reporting of these attacks. GTPD has also been an excellent source for safety tips and crime prevention, but treating the symptoms of rape culture is not going to cure the disease itself.
These most recent attacks exemplify the common concept of rape—that it comes from a scary stranger lurking in the bushes. In fact, this type of attack only accounts for a small portion of sexual assault cases. According to the numbers, most rapes look very, very different. Somewhere between 75%-89% of rape victims know their attacker. On college campuses, over 90% of rapists use alcohol or drugs to facilitate the attack, and one in four female college students will be sexually assaulted or the victim of an attempt while she is in school.
These facts indicate that no matter how much pepper spray we carry or how cautious we are when we walk outside after dark, we’re only protecting ourselves from a small percentage of attacks that come from outside our campus community.
Which leads to a final factor that the Technique consensus left out in its call for a culture of safety on campus: student participation. To really confront rape culture, we have to acknowledge its influence on our behavior and work to correct our own mindset. We can start by taking advantage of programs like Voice and Ally training from the WRC or attending Take Back the Night and guest speakers’ lectures during Women’s Awareness Month. We can create a bystander culture to dismantle rape from the inside. Bystander culture means that when we see a potentially dangerous situation, at a party or a bar or wherever it may be, we step in and say something. It means we stop using victim-blaming language, asking questions like, “Was she drunk? What was she wearing?” We stop laughing at sexist jokes. We support the victims we know. In the end, though, it means we, as the student body, make the decision to not allow Tech’s campus—our campus—to contribute to the statistics anymore.
The Women’s Awareness Month Executive Committee