On Monday, Feb. 15 I received a "Timely Warning" email from my school's campus police. The email was sent to the entire campus notifying each student that a sexual assault had taken place at a location the school has affiliations with. This particular one happened at a Kappa Sigma Fraternity party, where the theme was "Lust and Lace." My first reaction when I saw the email makes me sick to my stomach, and I'm so mad at myself that this was it.
I saw the subject line that read, "Sexual assault - Timely Warning Bulletin" and I thought, "Ugh, again?"
Why was I not shocked by this? Why was I not outraged and pissed off that this happened? Why was I not sad for this girl that this happened to? Why was I not disgusted by the sick man that felt he was entitled to this poor girl's body?
I had just found out that some guy at a party that I almost went to sexually assault a fellow student, and I wasn't even appalled? I had to ask myself, "How did I get this way?" Why was the news of an assault registered as an everyday thing in my mind? After reflecting on this I found out why I treated this news as an everyday thing--I had become desensitized to rape culture.
I've been told all the statistics every woman knows by heart, that one in four women will be sexually assaulted, and the majority of sexual assaults happen when alcohol is involved. I had been taught to never go to a party alone, never walk by yourself at night and if I did walk alone, have some sort of defense like pepper spray. Women have had it drilled into their brain that being a victim of sexual assault is a very real thing, and if it does happen to us we need to report it and turn in our assailant.
Reporting a sexual assault should be easy, it should be taken seriously and the system should help the victim get justice. However, more times than not when a woman does report a sexual assault her morals and integrity become questioned. She gets asked if alcohol was involved, what was she wearing, and if it was actually consensual.
The first time I had ever been cat-called was when I was 12. When I was younger I was always told I looked older, though it was never explicitly said this was because my breasts had already developed to a C-cup. I was walking by myself at the mall from the bathroom to the store where I was meeting my mom, and these two big guys sitting next to each other started staring at me. As I got closer to them one had leaned over to the other, said something, then began shouting at me. Eventually, the other chimed in and created a chorus of "girl, show me what your name is," "show me that smile," "aye, what are we doin' later?" "Why don't you come closer do I can get a better look at you?" I was beyond scared. I was by myself and there was two of them, if they really wanted to they could overpower me in an instant. Almost 10 years later, that fear is still the same every time I get catcalled, the fear that if I stand up for myself I will get attacked.
When a woman complains about the harassment she gets from strangers, she's told to tell them to stop and to stand up for herself. But when the stranger that's harassing you has the upper hand in size and strength, it's terrifying to stand up for yourself.
But why is it scarier to get yelled at by a stranger that never acts on his words, over getting grabbed by a guy at a party? I don't drink, so being inebriated has nothing to do with the fear, and the guy who grabbed me at a party is just as much of a stranger as the one yelling at me from across the street. Just because the guy at the party is a fraternity brother of a guy who lives in my building, doesn't make him less likely to commit sexual assault. Four out of five sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows and in one in three sexual assaults the perpetrator is intoxicated. If anything, a guy at the party is more likely to sexually assault someone than a stranger on the side of the street is.
We see rape culture everywhere, from movies and TV shows depicting and reenacting it, to news stations reporting on the violent action. Even though rape culture has been gaining more awareness, it's still not treated as seriously as it should.
It would seem the more people report it and spread awareness, the less serious it becomes. Hearing the news of rape or sexual assault shouldn't be as cavalier as hearing of someone getting into a car accident. The fact that sexual assault is taken lightly is sickening.
When I asked my friends in the Kappa Sigma fraternity about the sexual assault, their response was denial. They brushed the report off as another fraternity trying to mess with them or just a spiteful girl trying to get back at one of the brothers. None of them regarded it as what it actually was: sexual assault.
The desensitizing of rape culture can only be fixed one way: taking sexual assault seriously.