We need feminism.
We need feminism because walking past a group of men on campus is scary. Because although you keep your eyes down when striding past them, and don’t acknowledge that they even occupy the same planet, you are still showered with catcalls and invitations to come closer. We need feminism because “no” is seen as an invitation for some man you’ve never seen before in your life to smile slyly and run his hand through your hair, just to see if it will change your mind. We need feminism because, as a street mural in Ohio reads, “we live in a world where street harassment is so normal that it sets the stage for a culture where even worse things happen behind closed doors.”
That culture is affecting no one more than us as college students. Sexual assault on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus is hush-hush. It occurs behind the scenes, and even the “Panther Alerts” sent to our cell phones tell only a fraction of the story.
Case in point: In April 2013, a student reported that a member of now-infamous UWM fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon had raped her. The fraternity member bought them drinks at a bar, and immediately after consuming that drink she lost consciousness. When she woke up the next morning in his bed, the fraternity member told her that she was “asking for rape” by the way that she had danced with him. The woman was shocked by the accusation, because she is a lesbian. She reported the incident to police, who went to the TKE frat house to question the alleged rapist. During the police officers’ interview, the man’s best friend asked police how long GHB (a known date-rape drug) stayed in someone’s system, and the police found a used condom in the freezer, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The accused were never prosecuted, apparently because the victim was too impaired to prove that she hadn’t consented to the sex.
And we wonder why an estimated 80 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, according to the National Research Council.
People don’t report because the prospect of standing trial against an assailant is daunting. They don’t report because of the strength and emotion that it takes to confront someone who has hurt you so deeply. They don’t report because of the fear of backlash or judgment from peers.
There is such a stigma attached to sexual assault victims: They are “asking for it,” they just want attention, they want retaliation against an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend who has wronged them. But this misconception is preventing dozens of victims from getting the justice that they deserve. The Women’s Resource Center on campus is equipped to help survivors of sexual assault, but few people know of this resource. So let’s widen its scope of influence. If we as students make our campus known as a safe place where sexual violence is deplorable, and reject the notion that “drunk mistakes happen,” we can spark a larger movement for sexual assault to be treated like the severe crime that it is.