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Kaley L. Martín Headshot

Faculty Supervision and Single-Sex Dorms Just Aren't Effective Ways to Fight Rape Culture

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As a woman in college who has experienced instances of sexual assault on campus, I found Ross Douthat's "Stopping Campus Rape" very problematic. Although the author is well-intentioned, he completely neglects the heart of the issue of campus rape -- the only way to stop rape is to stop rapists.

Our universities should focus on rape prevention, awareness and teaching their students principles of feminism and respect. Limiting binge drinking, shutting down parties, faculty oversight and separating dorms by sexes does not recognize the grotesque and pervasive issue of rape in our society, and that the responsibility for raping someone is completely on the rapist, not the survivor. Frankly, I am surprised he didn't blame rape on college women's short skirts at parties, as his other suggestions also erroneously attribute rape to external factors, rather than holding rapists accountable. Importantly, he also completely ignores that men are also victims of rape.

Instead of dealing with the cause of rape, he seems to only care about limiting its effects. This defeatist attitude is dangerous, as it implies that rape is inevitable. Perhaps I hold a more favorable view of humanity than Mr. Douthart, as I believe that the existence of rape is not something we must accept, but rather, that it is a treatable symptom of an ill society.

Let's look at a school that actually implements most of the author's suggestions, with intense faculty oversight (not even allowing men and women to be in a dorm room together with the door closed), no fraternity parties, limited drinking and dorms with men and women often on separate floors: the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Unfortunately, we are all too aware of West Point's sexual harassment and sexual assault issues, of both men and women, which I would describe as nothing short of an epidemic. What would Mr. Douthart recommend doing then?

I argue that we have to change our misogynistic, patriarchal society. This author seems to place most of the blame for rape on "drinking to blackout," and he wants universities to essentially watch over "weak" women who get preyed on by rich frat boys instead of recognizing that we need to place full responsibility and severe academic and legal punishments on students who rape.

We also need to launch prevention and education campaigns around what constitutes rape. Many survivors do not even realize that their assaults were indeed rapes, and many people do not know that all parties must explicitly consent to sex for it to be consensual. Additionally, this should be obvious but sadly it is not; if someone is too intoxicated to consent, don't have sex.

And very importantly, our campuses need to become better equipped at helping survivors of sexual assault. Firstly, they must help students feel comfortable enough to come forward by publicizing what to do after an assault and also by showing a commitment to justice through consistently punishing rapists harshly, something that has been incredibly lacking in the recent stories from Columbia University, Brown University, and James Madison University. Additionally, our universities must support survivors of sexual assault through every aspect of the aftermath of their assault, from counseling to helping them decide whether or not to press criminal charges. Our schools should be the first to protect their students from any sort of violence, although all too often it seems as if they would prefer to save face by protecting their campus predators.

Overall, I find Mr. Douthart's article to be extremely heteronormative and paternalistic while not providing any proposed solutions to the only cause of rape -- rapists. His article highlights our society's lack of understanding of rape, and its reluctance to fully blame and harshly punish rapists, particularly when they are successful, college-aged men.