18 Shockingly Common Things You Didn't Know About College Rape Culture

Sexual Assault Awareness month may be over, but rape on college campuses is not. 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college. But what is 'rape culture' and what does it look like on college campuses? How are you contributing and how can you fight it?

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Buzzfeed published a beginner’s guide to the major elements of rape culture a few months ago. Rape Culture is an environment in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape.

Rape culture on college campuses is a pervasive issue. Here are 18 shockingly common ways that rape culture exists on college campuses. Even these don't completely encompass the big, sprawling octopus of the issue.

Rape can happen to anyone, and can be perpetrated by anyone. Men, women, queer and gender non-conforming individuals can be and are raped. It is not specific to race, gender, class, or sexual orientation. BUT the facts are that the vast majority of rapes on college campuses are perpetrated by men.

Women of all races are targeted, but some are more vulnerable than others: 33.5% of multiracial women have been raped, as have 27% of American Indian and Alaska Native women, compared to 15% of Hispanic, 22% of Black, and 19% of White women.

1. We're Asking The Wrong Questions


Whenever a sexual assault occurs the first questions asked are: was the victim drinking? what she was wearing? was she a slut anyway? When survivors finally have the courage to come forward about their assault (less than 3% of women do), these responses place the blame on them.

Sexual assault is a pervasive, structural problem; 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted during their time at college. This is not an individual issue, this is a societal one. What messages are perpetrators receiving over their lifetime about rape and about “being a man"?

2. Colleges Are Sweeping Sexual Assault Allegations Under The Rug


Elite colleges are sweeping sexual assault allegations under the rug to protect their reputations and rankings.

55 colleges are currently under federal investigation by the Department of Education after students filed Title IX complaints against their institutions for mishandling sexual assault cases, including the failure to punish perpetrators.

Rapists are allowed to stay on campus. Imagine if you had to watch your rapist receive his diploma? Imagine if he was still living in your dorm? It's rape survivors who are being punished on college campuses, not the rapists.

3. Less Than 5% Of Rapes Are Reported And Most Rapists Walk Free / Via

Most victims DO NOT report sexual assaults. They fear they will not believed, taken seriously, or supported. Instead, these victims are often blamed.

It is rare for a college to seriously sanction a student who commits sexual assault. According to a 2010 investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, only 10 to 25% of rapists were permanently kicked off campus. Recently at Brown University a student was found guilty of sexually assaulting and choking another student. The student was suspended for one semester, and was allowed to return to campus while the victim was still there.

Meanwhile, repeat rapists on college campuses are responsible for 90% of rapes and commit six rapes on average, according to research on “undetected rapists” on college campuses.

4. Certain Fraternities Are Embraced As "Rape Factories" / Via

The violent hyper-masculinity and entitlement of fraternities and jock culture perpetuate rape culture. Men are not biologically programed to rape women. Core components of masculine sports culture, including power, physical strength, and dominance over others, extend to influence views of women’s bodies. While male student athletes make up 3.3% of the U.S. college population, they are responsible for 19% of sexual assaults and 37% of intimate partner violence cases on college campuses.

1) Delta Kappa Epsilon members at Yale parade around campus chanting: "No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal"

2) Fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, (SAE), goes by another name at many colleges that speaks to its reputation: Sexual Assault Expected.

3) 'Top 10 Ways To Get Away With Rape' Flyer found in Miami University men's bathroom.

4) Fraternity House at Wesleyan is known as the "Rape Factory."

5) Students from a fraternity at UVM circulated an email with the subject line “who do you want to rape list?” In response to the backlash against the list, people defended the authors saying, "it's just boys horsing around! You know, boys will be boys!"

6) Georgia Tech fraternity brothers send email about "Luring your rapebait"

The list goes on and on.

5. Packing for college? Don't forget your anti-rape wear / Via

Will you be rockin’ these nifty hair tights this winter? College women are constantly being given tips on how to prevent rape: “don't get too drunk!” “don't wear that cute dress!”, “don't forget your rape whistle!” Now, we are given more options: hairy leg stockings, and anti-rape underwear! Yipeee! A girl’s gotta have options.

But rapists don't care what clothes you have on. Most convicted rapists don’t remember what their victim was wearing.

These products place the burden of protection against rape and sexual assault on women. Instead of developing modern-day chastity belts, lets teach rapists not to rape and bring those who do to justice. Rape whistles and hairy legs will not stop rape. Dowdy clothes do not prevent rape. Women who have hairy legs still get raped. Women in burqas get raped.

6. 73% Of Assaults Are Committed By Acquaintances


Approximately two-thirds of rapes are committed by an acquaintance to the victim. Many colleges issue ID cards to students for building access. The logic? Rapists are strangers, not nice college kids. College administrations perpetuate the myth that strangers outside the community are rapists, not students across the hall. This 73% stat shows the colleges are wrong about who they need to protect students from.

7. THESE Violent Fraternity Rape Chants!


Chants are super fun! They are not super fun when they are about violent rape.

Phi Kappa Tau at Georgia Tech send out these song lyrics to their pledges.

TRIGGER WARNING on these, really though. Extremely disturbing mysoginistic lyrics.

Here are UBC's lyrics: "Y-O-U-N-G at UBC we like em young Y is for yourrr sister O is for ohh so tight U is for under age N is for noo consent G is for goo to jail"

"Boys will be boys" is not an acceptable excuse. We live in a culture that teaches and OK's a violent and specific hyper-masculinity. There is nothing normal or natural about rape. There is nothing inherently violent about masculinity. Masculinity can and is being re-imagined. We need to stop defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive.

College students constantly joke about rape. Rape jokes are disrespectful to survivors and often triggering. Using rape as a punchline further minimizes and normalizes sexual assault. When we are surrounded by rape jokes, our understanding of rape changes. There is simply no way to acknowledge the violation and devastation of rape, while simultaneously viewing it as amusing and laugh-inducing. The blog Shakesville expresses it perfectly:

"Because 6% of college-aged men, slightly over 1 in 20, will admit to raping someone in anonymous surveys, as long as the word "rape" isn't used in the description of the act—and that's the conservative estimate. A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That's not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists? Rapists do. They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again. Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape."

8. College Administrators Shameful Responses

When a survivor chooses to report her rape to her college, she is often shamed by the campus advisors whose purported task is to support the student. Administrators' respond to student survivors in dismissive ways (and often engage in victim blaming) that silence the survivor. Read more deplorable responses on Project Unbreakable.

When Annie Clark reported her rape at UNC Chapel Hill an administrator said, "Well... Rape is like football, if you look back on the game, and you're the quarterback, Annie... is there anything you would have done differently?"

9. People Of Color Experience Racist Responses From College Administrations


Rape culture and racism are deeply connected, yet often overlooked. Stereotypes about black men raping white women abound, and like all stereotypes, are false. 
When one survivor, a woman of color, attempted to report her assault, a college official responded, "It's in your culture that men are gropey." 

Under the Clery Act, colleges are required to send out warning about reported assaults to the campus community. In an article from the Columbia Spectator students said, "of the nine security alerts [they] have received this year, every single one indicated men of color as the suspects, and most were nonviolent crimes. By providing timely warnings for these crimes and not for instances of sexual violence perpetrated by its own students, Columbia demonstrates the kind of crimes it takes seriously and whom it considers dangerous. Columbia literally creates an image of a criminal through its security alerts: a man of color, a non-affiliate of the University, who is committing minor crimes. This image of a criminal is wholly unrepresentative of crime and violence in our community, including sexual assault. By failing to provide these timely warnings, Columbia perpetuates deeply troubling institutional racism and shows a disturbing disregard for sexual violence and student safety."

10. "College Women: Stop Getting Drunk." / Via

Slate columnist Emily Yoffe gave college women a lesson in sexual assault prevention: stop getting drunk. Alcohol does not cause rape, rapists cause rape. Yet, college women are still being told that if they don't put down that beer, they will “end up being raped”.

An expert in USA Today commented, “People don’t get raped because they have been drinking, because they are passed out or because they are drunk. People get raped because there is a perpetrator there — someone who wants to take advantage of them.”

Colleges use alcohol to simultaneously blame women for their assault and to intimidate the survivor into not reporting by calling non-consensual sex under the influence of alcohol: “drunk regretted sex". Just take a look at these rape prevention posters--not a single one reminds us that rapists cause rape. Placing the blame of women’s rape on women’s drinking is in keeping with a decades-long tradition of victim-blaming, feeding rape culture.

11. Consent Education At Freshman Orientation Is A Complete and Utter Joke

View this video on YouTube

THIS consent video was shown during mandatory freshman orientation at Middlebury College. It

a) makes consent a farce

b) suggests that consent is difficult to establish

c) perpetuates rape culture through suggesting that men need to coerce women into having sex with them.

Oh, and women- you gotta protect your purity, and if you’re going to have sex, make sure you manipulate the dude into dating you. If you couldn’t tell, this video reinforces sexist ideas about female sexuality. We already live in a culture that has NO sex-ed about how to pleasure women, female masturbation, or female orgasms: this video is just one of many contributing to unwanted and unpleasurable sexual experiences for women. This video focuses on male pleasure and needs, furthering societal male-centered sex-ed.

Showing this video to 600 nervous freshman is especially terrifying because statistically college students are the most vulnerable to rape during the first few weeks of freshman year.

12. Rapey Alumni On Campus, Students Fend For Yourselves!


Amherst College students received this friendly email in their inbox:

"Keep an eye out for unwanted sexual advances. A lot of alums come back for Homecoming pretty jaded with the bar scene and blind dating of the real world and are eager to take advantage of what they now perceive to be an 'easy' hook-up scene back at Amherst. Also, many alums tend to be pretty drunk all weekend long. Alert your residents to this unfortunate combination and keep an eye on your friends, your residents, and yourself."

The Spark notes version: "Dear Students, Rapey alumni can't help taking advantage of young students. It's not their fault. Watch out." Thanks, Amherst, for your helpful advice! NOT.

13. "She's making it up": The False Accusation Myth

The likelihood of being falsely accused of rape is tiny, the conservative estimate is 2-8%. Women are far more likely to be raped than men are to be falsely accused, and women are far more likely to not be believed after an assault.

14. "It's not rape if it's a freshman"

College students are the most likely to be raped during the first few weeks of their freshman and sophomore years.

Psychologist and researcher David Lisak's found that college men prey on young freshmen. "The predators on campus know that women who are new to campus, they are younger, they're less experienced. They probably have less experience with alcohol, they want to be accepted." These older male students take advantage of this power dynamics during the first few weeks of college.

15. LGBTQ Individuals Targeted

Rape is often used against the LGBTQ community as "corrective rape"- where rapists seek to "cure" or "correct" someone's sexuality. At Middlebury College, a homophobic letter taped to the door of a student's room threatened "you say you’re gay but we know you’ve never fucked a guy… so we’re gonna fuck you till you’re straight.” Students at this college have reported that rape culture and violent homophobia go unnoticed on the campus.

AlJazeera reports that "more than 42% of students who identified as being LGBTQ reported being forced to have sex against their will, more than double the rate of heterosexual students." A recent article in The Atlantic states that that percentage can rise to "70% of LGBTQ students are sexually harassed during their college years".

LGBTQ assaults on campus are underreported and universities are ill equipped to handle sexual assault and rape in the LGBTQ community. Students at Columbia University filed a Title IX complaint that "LGBTQ students face discrimination in counseling, advising, adjudication, & Greek life."

16. College Rape Survivors And Advocates Are Punished For Speaking Out

There is often hostility from students and community members to survivors and advocates who speak out. Dartmouth College had to cancel classes after sexual assault protesters received rape threats.

College rape survivors are punished for coming forward about their assault. At University of North Carolina a survivor faced potential expulsion for speaking publicly about her rape. Brett Sokolow, the CEO of the consulting and law firm the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management said, "If women walk around campus saying they've been raped, they could be sued for defamation."

17. Reporting = "The Second Rape"

Survivors are discouraged from formally reporting their assaults to their college. Underreporting on college campuses has a lot to do with the inadequate reporting process (and heyy, #'s 1-16). Survivors are forced to endure victim blaming mentalities and rape apologists.

A student at Washington University St. Louis described her experience with reporting to the City police and describes it as "The Second Rape", because her agency in the reporting process was completely taken away, and the experience itself was traumatic.

18. Attempted Suicide Rate for Survivors: 13%

Many schools are under Title IX investigations with the complaint that survivors are discriminated against and denied accommodations based on mental health disability, including PTSD and depression.

About 33% of rape victims have suicidal thoughts and 13% of rape victims will attempt suicide.This is often because survivors are blamed for their own assaults and/or are not believed. This phenomenon is called re-victimization, and contributes to the widespread underreporting of rapes.

Elizabeth "Lizzy" Seeberg committed suicide nine days after reporting a Notre Dame football player of sexually assaulting her in a dorm room; Notre Dame investigators failed to interview the student she accused until 15 days after Seeberg reported the attack and five days after she killed herself. This incident is one of the many such cases on college campuses, like Sasha Menu Courey and Trey Malone, who both experienced re-victimization that tragically resulted in suicide.

In Trey Malone's suicide note he wrote:

"I blame a society that remains unwilling to address sexual assault and rape. One that pays some object form of lip service to the idea of sexual crimes while working its hardest to marginalize its victims. One where the first question a college president can pose to me, regarding my own assault is, “Have you handled your drinking problem?"

Join The Fight!

Look, you might not consider yourself a bad guy or a women who slut-shames, but we live in a rape culture where our actions and in-actions can perpetuate this culture. Join the fight to dismantle rape culture! Get involved with organizations like SAFER on your campus and in your community to end sexual violence!

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