Time for men to end rape
The Dean of Students’ office has failed us.
When presented an easy opportunity to expel an allegedly rapist who reportedly admitted his crime, the University of Massachusetts buckled under what interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life, Jean Kim called a “really unfortunate” situation, according to last week’s shocking – but not surprising – Boston Globe article “No crackdown on assaults at colleges”.
I can be kicked out of housing for having too much alcohol in my fridge, but I apparently will be allowed to graduate if I rape a friend. Do we have to wonder why women rarely report being raped? Either no one believes them or nothing happens to the assailant.
This is not just at the UMass Amherst. College campuses are infected with an unhealthy, oppressive and violent hegemonic masculinity. Men are raised in an invisible cage of what it means to be a man: to never cry, to own at Halo, to drink more than anyone else, to have sex with more women and to view women as ends to our sexual desires. And because we cannot talk about our feelings – God forbid a man actually feels something – we are pressurized to conform to this impossible image of manhood. By not talking about ourselves, we become trapped.
When an insecure, unsympathetic and immoral man encounters a situation where he wants sex, but the woman he’s with does not, he rapes her. There is a difference from having sex and rape. Rape is about taking out men’s anger over the feminist movement for challenging us to actually think; it is about ripping away the pride and soul of a woman from beneath her; it is about showing women that men are superior; it’s about power. Rape is a choice – always – that someone thinks about, commits to and executes.
Whenever stories are reported on this subject, such as the sexual assault in the library last fall or the Boston Globe article, we wonder why this happens. But I will not talk about the victims. Our schools, disciplinary boards (clearly an oxymoron) and our justice departments need to stop asking if the victim’s skirt was too short, if the victim was flirting with him, or if the victim was drinking. We need to start talking to men. We need to talk about the men who rape women and find a safe haven in the Dean of Students’ office. Instead to telling women to not walk alone at night, instead of telling women to dress more “appropriately,” instead of telling women to use their rape whistles in case of emergencies, we need to tell men to stop raping women. We need to tell men to stop raping our mothers, our sisters, our girlfriends, our aunts and all the women in our lives.
I’m not sure what scares me more: the fact that the vice chancellor failed to hold her staff accountable, that the assistant dean who reviewed the case, Christina Willenbrock, did not expel the victimizer, or the fact that the vice chancellor, the assistant dean and the head dean of students, Jo-Anne Vanin are all women of power who let an inferior man get away with rape. There is no way that in all their respective lives, that they were never once harassed because of their gender or ethnicities, yet all three passed on rape as though he failed an exam.
Kim wants to continue as vice chancellor. Her resume is filled with student affairs experience. Too bad she forgot the most important thing about student affairs: caring for them. Her interests lie in throwing the blame to someone else and “making adjustments.” The only adjustment she needs to make is getting out of Amherst, because I do not want to send my future daughter to a school where not even women with power give a damn about rape.
You’ll notice in our Student Code of Conduct – if you’ve ever read it – that the “Appliance Guidelines” are about half a page. You know, stuff like unplugging your refrigerators over break. Sexual assault? One sentence. Rape? Nothing. It seems like UMass cares more about its furniture policy than about educating men and women about rape. The very day the Boston Globe article and subsequent Collegian coverage came out, UMass students got an e-mail from Housing and Residence Life reminding us about the “Fire safety Policy Compliance Advisory.” Seriously? How about e-mail reminders to all the men on campus that rape is illegal? Plagiarism is not illegal in American law, but I can get expelled for that. Rape is illegal, but I can still graduate with honors.
Now, we need a solution, but where begin? UMass can start expelling rapists. That would be nice. UMass should also be allowed to press charges against the accused if they see fit, even if the victim chooses not to. What was it that I read in the sexual harassment policy written by UMass? “In most instances, complaints will be initiated by the target of the alleged harassment. However, the University reserves the right to initiate a formal grievance (or to continue processing a complaint even after a request to withdraw has been submitted by the Complainant in accordance with Section IV) when, in the opinion of the Chair of the Sexual Harassment Board, it is appropriate to do so. In such instances the Chair of the Sexual Harassment Board, in consultation with the Chancellor, will designate who will present the University’s case.”
It looks like the Dean of Students’ office had the full power and authority to charge that man with rape, chose not to, and not is saying “reversing a decision is not an option,” according to Kim.
But ultimately, the power is not in the hands of administrators. The power and choice to acknowledge women as human beings starts with men. Men are the ones who commit the most rapes in relation to females, but it is true most men in general do not commit rape. It is those men, the ones who do not commit rape, who need to speak up.
In the book by Robin Warshaw, “I Never Called it Rape”, it reports that one in four college women will get sexually assaulted, raped, or harassed. Men, how many women do you know? More than four I bet, so you better think twice before you say another rape joke. In the same book, surveys showed that one in 12 college men committed acts legally definable as rape. Men, how many men do you know? Odds are that you might be friends with a repeat rapist and not even know it.
UMass has some misplaced notion that by keeping these issues secret they won’t happen anymore. The UMass Police Department should post the picture of every rapist on its website so we know exactly who did what and who is getting away with it. But why would the school do that? UMass cares more about planting trees and prettying up Southwest to attract prospective students instead of caring about their current students, the ones that pay thousands and thousands of dollars to funds that ultimately help rapists succeed. You don’t need to be a woman to be outraged by this crisis, you just need a heart, a mind and no mind for rape.
So men, the next time you and I go to the bathroom, remember that we hold in our hands the ability to end rape.
Roy Ribitzky is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.