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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Op-ed: Ending rape culture on campus

Shannon Quinn, a junior majoring in international affairs and Middle Eastern studies, is the education center director and co-chair of the GW Roosevelt Institute’s Rape Culture Awareness Committee.

You’ve probably heard the term “rape culture” before. Recently, with the national push to end sexual assault on college campuses coming from places like the White House, the phrase seems to be cropping up more and more often.

But what exactly is rape culture? What’s actually the big deal behind this abstract concept, and what can we do to counteract this pervasive way of thinking?

There is a very real phenomenon that the term rape culture represents. It’s everywhere – in the media, on campuses and coming from the mouths of politicians who some people respect.

It takes the ugly form of rape jokes, the negative portrayal of women in advertising and street harassment. It’s concentrating on a victim’s clothes rather than the crime when a sexual assault or rape happens. Rape culture embodies the idea that violence against women is normalized and accepted in our society when it should really be anything but normal.

You don’t need to look far to find the narrative that exists within rape culture, especially on a college campus. We can start here: Last year on spring break, I was raped.

The first thought that I had after it happened was, “It was my fault. I was drinking too much.” Although I’ve come to realize and accept that it absolutely wasn’t my fault, psychologically grappling with this was a direct result of the victim-blaming propagated in the media and even by notable academics.

And it doesn’t stop with my story. When I first came to GW, I was told that there was a “rape dungeon” at one of the fraternities on campus – and people talked about this as if it were normal. I’ve heard stories about people dismissing a rape because “she was asking for it.” I even know women who have been given date rape drugs. Unfortunately, these stories are not few and far between, even on a more stereotypically liberal campus like GW’s.

The GW Roosevelt Institute’s Rape Culture Awareness campaign, which launched Nov. 5, is one way we can work toward eradicating the epidemic of sexual assault on campus. As a student body, we can start a conversation about these cultural norms and begin to counter them.

We can start to push for initiatives such as requiring professors to include sexual assault information on syllabi. Though it may not be easy to combat rape culture, it’s far past time to start this dialogue on GW’s campus and challenge ourselves to be better.

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