THE BLOG

College Rape: A Privilege?

06/12/2014 09:42 am ET | Updated Aug 12, 2014
  • Ariel Koren Senior Class President, University of Pennsylvania
Jean-Marc Costanzi via Getty Images

Enduring the trauma of sexual assault while navigating life on a campus you share with your perpetrator is endlessly painful.

I have lived this firsthand. And, as senior class president at the University of Pennsylvania, I've listened to dozens of stories of recovering assault survivors who, too, struggle every day to thrive amidst the aftermath of the degrading, violent, shattering act that is rape. But George Will's recent Washington Post article makes a joke of it.

George Will, I read your article. And I want to help you.

I'm talking about the article in which you deny the validity of the again-and-again proven-accurate statistic that 1 in 5 college women will be assaulted at school, in which you mock the use of "trigger warnings" that we often print on graphic articles lest survivors of violence (whom you call "intellectually dormant") should be vulnerable to suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or similar symptoms upon reading them, and in which you claim that being assaulted is "a coveted privilege."

I want to help you understand why survivors around the world have responded so angrily to your article in the form of the powerful #survivorprivilege movement. You see, George, the #survivorprivilege movement is testament to the graveness of your associating the word "privilege" with the status of a college campus rape survivor. So let me start from there: privilege. (And I promise to keep this simple, George, just for you).

As Penn's senior class president, having the honor of representing and uniting 2,600 of our world's (no exaggeration) coolest, most diverse, most accomplished and intelligent people -- is a privilege. One for which I am immensely grateful. Similarly, having had the opportunity to travel abroad to advance my studies (I am writing to you from my host family's apartment in Rome) -- is a privilege. A huge one. And most Penn students agree that having access to an Ivy League education, working with brilliant and caring professors who are leaders in their fields, being supported by some of the world's most passionate administrators, and being surrounded by peers who challenge and amaze each other -- is a privilege.

So, George, you're right. I have privilege. But it isn't because I'm a sexual assault survivor. See above to review what privilege is, and continue below to learn what privilege is not.

Privilege isn't:

Showing up late to a board meeting that you are facilitating, because you have just had a panic attack. (See paragraph one to review the concept of post traumatic stress disorder, George). That is not a privilege.

Falling behind in your Ivy League classes as a result of a hindering fatigue (you haven't slept in weeks because it's hard to lie down in the bed in which you were attacked) is, believe it or not, not a privilege either.

Being the president of the Class of 2015 and wondering if you'll graduate in 2015 because you might need to take a gap year to recover from poor mental health -- is not a privilege.

Being physically incapable of eating because of a trauma that eats at you -- is not a privilege.

Lying beneath someone you trusted, telling him to get off of you, and instead being told to "stop complaining and participate" while he penetrates and doesn't stop until he's finished, even while you cry. This is absolutely not a privilege.

So, George, I broke it all down for you in the second person to help you relate (I know, narcissists tend to have trouble empathizing with all people who aren't themselves). Don't worry about me, though. I have overcome -- and continue each day to overcome -- the challenges described above. I have survived because I have juggled my rigorous academic life with very, very hard work on my recovery. So now, we can work on helping you preserve your sanity. Indeed, even you deserve to understand the truth. The truth is that being raped is not a privilege, but a horror. And seeking and receiving compassion in the aftermath of the violence and pain of rape is not a privilege, but a means of survival. Too often, though, survivors of campus rape face stigma, revictimization, and George Will articles, instead of the compassion and accommodation that they need.

You've nearly finished reading now, but before you become intellectually dormant, just, first, a couple of (easy -- I promise!) questions:

I wonder, George, why it's so hard for you to admit that rape happens when, well, rape happens?

I wonder, George, if you'd have the same tendency to empathize with college campus rapists if your son or daughter -- if a person you cared for -- were amongst the 1 in 5 women or 1 in 7 men that you mock in your article? (George, I hate to break it to you, but you probably know and love more people who are struggling to cope with sexual assault than you think).

I wonder, George, how it feels to have mocked the story of a woman who was raped by a friend whom she asked not to have sex with her?

I wonder this, because, I wonder, George:

If a woman asked YOU to stop, and you proceeded to remove her clothing and penetrate anyway, would you be able to live with yourself?

If the answer is yes, then you are a dangerous man. And if the answer is no, then you should have no trouble understanding that what you've written is a dangerous article.