"We all know the stereotypical response to a woman's accusation of rape."
See, there's already a problem with that sentence. First, that there exists a single, prevalent response to a horribly sensitive and highly subjective incident is uncalled for. Second, the word "accusation" already places blame on the victim.
In the wake of the infamous Rolling Stone article in which a girl by the name of Jackie detailed being gang raped during a fraternity party at UVA, the effects have been immeasurable. Police investigated the fraternity, the alleged rapists as well as the story as a whole, only to come to find that none of the information given in the article could be verified. No function occurred that night at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, nor could the police identify the man that Jackie had described. The article has been retracted due to “major journalistic failings," according to the New York Times. However, the issues don't stop there.
Besides the clear breach of journalistic values of accurate reporting, the retracted article has the potential to only produce more fear in the lives of women who have been raped. Not that there's already a stigma that paralyzes the voices of the victims of rape.
The words “She was asking for it," “Did you see what she was wearing?", “C'mon, she probably wanted it" and others like them are responses that are far too common. It's a way of thinking that is engrained in society's behavior. It's an issue that goes beyond the time that you and I have been alive. But it is also a men's issue.
It is a men's issue not only in the way that men are raised in society (or society approves of) or taught the meaning of masculinity, but also in the sense that they are victims themselves. However, the stigma attached to rape prevents any sort of discussion. And without any discussion, there can't be a solution or change of mindset in society.
According to Women Organized Against Rape, 1-in-3 American women will be sexually abused in their lifetime. That's right. 1/3 of the female population will be sexually violated. In the same report, 1-in-6 of American men will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
I don't know about you, but that's something that needs to change. And the retracted article doesn't exactly help. UVA, Phi Kappa Psi, and the Greek community as a whole received an incredible amount of backlash following the publication of the article. It seemed like possibly the response was a huge step forward in the right direction by igniting conversation over rape and sexual assault. As soon as the article was found to be false and embellished, that step forward became 3 steps backward. Who wants to come forward now knowing that the very public revelation presented by Jackie in the Rolling Stone only reinforced the stigma?
Although it was a noble move journalistically to take responsibility for their mistake, the consequences are still very real. Similarly, the light still shines brightly on the Greek community because of the intense scrutiny following the article. So how much of the issue falls on our shoulders? How do we as a Greek community, established in brotherhood/sisterhood and philanthropy, take on this issue?
Clearly it goes far beyond the Greek community. Rape and sexual assault take place in a million different settings. That doesn't excuse us, but instead it places more urgency and importance on us as a community to address the problem and change it. It may not be “fair" to scrutinize the Greek population so harshly when other groups, places, and communities deserve an equal amount of inspection, but that's just the way it is right now. It's up to us to not only create an environment in which rape victims, both women and men alike, are able to speak up on campuses and elsewhere. It's also up to us to make the issue not be an issue in the first place.
It's time to redeem ourselves.