The writer of this column, a Springfield College student, chose to remain anonymous.
An oasis of manicured green grass, stately brick buildings. Student leaders smiling, all day, every day because everything is fine. Everyone you meet is polite and holds the door for the next person. A safe haven free of conflict, a bubble of safety within urban chaos.
It doesn’t happen here.
Little do we know the green grass, the kind smiles, are all just an illusion. Diverting our attention from the muffled screams for help. It doesn’t happen here.
BUT IT DOES.
Rape culture is when women are taught on their very first day of college to walk with a buddy. Because we are responsible for our own safety. We are taught to be fearful.
Rape culture is when a man at a party will grab your ass before he asks your name. You are targeted because you have a drink in your hand.
Rape culture is when a woman is attacked in the kitchen of her dorm early in the morning on a Wednesday. The lights turned out before she could see her attacker’s face. Her mouth covered. And she is raped.
Rape culture is when this woman withdraws from school the next day, because she has been given every reason to no longer trust the façade of the green grass and fake smiles.
Rape culture is when campus administration sends an email alert of this sexual assault to the student body the next day because the attacker is unknown, still lurking among us. But this detail is left out. The email seems to be copy and pasted from a stock of responses, from a file titled, “Quick! Hide the reality that sexual assault is real!”
Rape culture is when this standardized email includes nearly seven resources, including SAVA, the Title IX coordinator, Public Safety’s emergency number, the counseling center and more… all of which are ways to reach out or cry for help once it is too late. You can go to the counseling center and tell them how scared you are, but that is not going to prevent a similar attack happening to you.
Rape culture is when our very own administration lends a helping hand to reinforce the vicious cycle. Students misinterpret the email to believe that this alert was the first reported sexual assault of the semester. For those who know that there have been plenty of assaults occurring, this is unsettling, and for those who don’t have the awareness to understand that sexual assaults occur frequently, well then… it appears that this was “the only one.”
Rape culture is when a week after the assault, the school newspaper is headlined: Campus grapples with reported sexual assault. Written by a man, detailing what he thinks is going on in the aftermath of the most traumatic events in a fellow student’s life…analyzing the situation like a mystery novel.
Rape culture is when his article is plastered across the front page, while a female student writer’s article, titled “Sexual assault cannot continue to be overlooked” is hidden away on the second page. She is the hero to share the undeniable fact that one in five college women in the U.S. are sexually assaulted.
Rape culture is when the term “Clery report” is like a foreign language to students. Awareness can never be achieved if we don’t know where to look. A Clery report is a legal document listing reported crimes, giving students and faculty the right to know what happens on our campus.
When no one knows about Title IX or SAVA, we don’t use these resources. Eighty percent of sexual assault survivors tell no one about what has happened to them. We are taught to feel shameful. We are taught that it is our fault for putting ourselves in danger. Our fault for drinking. Our fault that someone else could not control themselves.
Rape culture is when a woman falls asleep on a common room couch on a Saturday night, and the next morning she wakes up in a stranger’s bed. She certainly couldn’t have gotten there by her own will.
Rape culture is when students ask why there was no urgent text alert sent out following the sexual assault in the dorm kitchen…and administration answers that they will keep that in mind for next time.
Rape culture is when a dorm-wide meeting is held to debrief on the reported sexual assault, and soda and baked goods are catered for students to eat while discussing the worst moment of their classmate’s life.
Rape culture is when only four males show up to this meeting, while 40 other females sit, some with tears in their eyes, some clasping onto the hands of their friends and roommates, with wide concerned eyes awaiting reassurance.
Rape culture is when the kitchen where this woman was raped, a crime scene, is closed off with a sign that reads “closed for cleaning.”
Rape culture is when this sexual assault is referred to as “the incident” by students, faculty, and administration.
Rape culture is when four months have passed since our classmate has packed her bags, leaving our campus as a survivor. Four months have passed and no further information has been released about her attacker. Four months have passed and we may never know the number of students turned victims in this time period.
We cannot live in a fantasy world where “bad things don’t happen here.” We cannot turn our heads the other way. We cannot blame the victim. We cannot perpetuate rape culture with our own ignorance. We are not immune. Rape happens at Springfield College. We cannot convince ourselves that the muffled screams down the hall, “must be something else.”