Say something: It’s time to put an end to the culture of sexual assault


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This semester, the number of rapes reported to police and the university has increased significantly. This isn’t necessarily indicative of more rapes, however. What it does show is a culture that allows victims to feel empowered to report, to attempt official action against their rapists.

It’s common knowledge that the vast majority of rapes that occur are not reported. This is a result of a culture that stigmatizes being a victim of rape, and puts the responsibility for this violent assault on the victim by asking questions like ‘what were they wearing?’ ‘How much did they drink?’ ‘Why did they put themselves in that dangerous environment?’

In asking these questions, our culture forgets that rape is not about sex. Rape is about power. Rapists take power over the situation completely away from the victims, and it does not matter what the victim was wearing or what the situation was. Rape is often seen as a college issue, a “campus pandemic,” but we know this to be untrue. Rape, and the way it is approached as a topic, is a community problem. Even more than that, it is a deep-seated cultural problem.

It’s easy to point the blame for sexual assault to a specific instance, a specific subculture, or a justice system that doesn’t function adequately. It’s much more difficult to recognize where the problem really lies: in our own culture, in our own perceptions of sexual assault and rape victims. To combat this problem, we need a shift in the cultural mentality that takes a violent crime and makes it the victim’s fault. A victim should not be ashamed to speak out, or name their attacker.

As a newspaper, we have an obligation to report on this crime and to follow up on cases we know are active. With that said, it’s important to understand there is a great difference between a rape case and victim. In the cases we report, the victim’s identity is always considered and their safety is our top concern.

It is our job to not only start the conversation, but continue it. Rape often comes under scrutiny for a few days, or a week, and then it fades out. But it’s our job journalists to say something, to keep the conversation going, to keep reporting rape on the front page.

We can’t stop reporting on this issue until it’s solved. It’s our job as perpetuators of cultural conversation to use our public voice to stop blaming rape victims for being victimized.

As a news organization, we have chosen not to be silent about sexual assault. As individuals, we have chosen not to be silent about sexual assault. We encourage everyone to say something.

Part of our job includes reading through detailed accounts of sexual assault reports, and the difficult track these cases take through the legal system. We know it is difficult to push a case all the way through prosecution, and we know that, even if a case is reported to police, it is often not prosecuted successfully.

But if a rape is never reported, there is never chance for perpetrator to be punished.

We want to encourage the victims of sexual assault to stand up and say something. It’s an awful truth that society and American culture is against them, and it takes immense bravery to say something – but the more victims report the crimes, the closer we as a society get to placing the blame for this crime where it belongs: on the rapists themselves.

It’s rare for a rape to be a one-time occurrence. If someone commits rape once, it is likely they will do it again. This likelihood is only increased when a community grants attackers the veil of anonymity.  

But the responsibility for saying something cannot solely be placed on the victims. As bystanders to any situation that may be questionable, we also have a responsibility to say something.

If you see a situation you think looks strange, you say something and you’re wrong, nothing changes. If you say something and you’re right, you’ve stopped someone’s life from being irrevocably changed.

As a newspaper, as individuals, and as a campus, we all have a responsibility to step up and say something. It’s our world and our culture that blames victims for the crimes, and we do have the power and the obligation to change it.

So we encourage you: don’t stay silent. If you see something happening, say something. If something has happened to you, say something. As a newspaper, we made the choice to say something, and we will not stop talking about rape until the issue is solved.