This Is Not A Joke
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Politics and Activism

This Is Not A Joke

Rape. A word tossed around too frequently to address a situation of dominance or control.

This Is Not A Joke

Although rape is commonly used to describe acing a test, winning a fight or making light of a serious situation, it is  a tragic, irreversible act of violence, committed against another person’s will. And as my FYCARE script reads: it is not sex. It is violence.

I am talking to you.  As a University of Illinois student, you have most likely taken the mandatory two hour-long workshop educating students about rape and how to assist a survivor of sexual assault. At that time, however, it is unlikely you had been fully exposed to the culture that is glorified through drug and alcohol abuse. Aside from that, there is a chance you overlooked it altogether, deciding it made you uncomfortable, or brushing it aside as something you will never have to deal with yourself.            

Take a look back at your college experience and decide for yourself if you have ever had someone open up to you about feeling pressure to do something they did not want to do, but felt forced. Or someone feeling obligated after accepting a drink from someone else. Or they felt guilty for not “putting out” after going to a date event with someone. Chances are, due to the standards that are created through social media, advertising and pop culture, one or more of these scenarios are easily relatable to an instance in your own life. Absolutely all of these scenarios have one thing in common: they are all a product of the rape culture we live in. The number one takeaway is that it is okay to say no.  

By all means, if you are interested in whomever was buying you those vodka cranberries all night long, it is also okay to say yes. But, too often, we are under the impression that accepting a drink is more than just that, that it is some sort of transaction. Contrary to this popular belief, it is absolutely, most certainly not. Sex is not a transaction. Sex is a gift given purely by choice and through mutual consent between all parties involved. If you are afraid that person will hate you for saying no after buying you all those drinks, first of all, they do not seem like a very nice person. And second, those dollar drinks -- or even the Trump fortune -- are not worth the slightest next to what you choose to do with your body, and who you allow to be a part of that experience.     

Please, do not mistake this for being an anti-drinking, anti-partying rant. However, alcohol is no excuse for poor judgment and taking control away from another individual. As a FYCARE facilitator, I do my job because of how crucial I think it is for everyone to open their eyes to these ideas we pass off as norms, and realize that we all need to play a part in order to stop it from continuing further and effecting more lives. Not too long ago, I myself passed off with these pro-rape culture ideals as norms. After taking the CARE class (CHLH 199B), I am no longer that same individual. I see myself in a better light.     

I want to get the message across that you should not be ashamed of your body, whether it is slender, curvy, beefy or anything in between. Do not be afraid to dress how you want or do what you want, as long as you are comfortable in your skin. We should never blame ourselves for something that happened to us if it was out of our control. Be careful, be safe, but be yourself.

Guys, this goes for you, too. We are told that women are the only victims of sexual assault, but that is totally false. One in 16 men are sexually assaulted in their undergraduate career, and that is no reason for that man to feel any less of a man than they are. It is not the victim’s fault, it is the perpetrator’s.     

Thankfully, our university has several resources for every student, whatever gender they identify with, to help a survivor cope with a sexual assault, as well as provide resources to file a claim against the perpetrator and everything in between. The Counseling Center, located in the Turner Student Services building at the corner of Sixth and John, provides counseling and other resources for survivors. The Women’s Resource Center, located next to Coco Mero on Wright Street, is another great resource for help and support and it is not just for women, it is available to anyone at all. R.A.C.E.S., or the Rape Advocacy, Counseling and Education Services, is also a great outlet and offers an absolutely free 24/7 hotline service that can be reached at (217) 344-6604. All of these resources are confidential and free of charge.    

Although much more can be said on the topic of sexual assault and rape culture, I wanted to delve into it and do a recap of what students learn in FYCARE because it does not just end after a two-hour workshop.

Rape is something that needs to be talked about and discussed, openly, to prevent it from happening. If you, or someone you know, is a survivor of sexual assault, remember that it is not the victim’s fault and we are here to help. All of us need to do our part in ending rape culture. You can start by only using the word in its proper context.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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