Sexual assault at CNU revisited

The RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) website approximates that 2/3 of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. A quick Google search brings up an endless list of studies that all tell us that the victim knows the perpetrator in 65-75% of cases of sexual violence. These numbers tell us that CNU students, and college students across the country (for this problem is not unique to CNU, it is endemic in college campuses) are far more likely to be assaulted or raped by an acquaintance than a stranger. The threat is not a stranger hiding in the bushes or a serial rapist lurking in the parking lot late at night. The numbers say that it 70% more likely that the danger is a fellow student in psychology class, a bio lab partner, or someone living in the same residence hall.

In defending their inaction, CNU cited the fact that in all three cases the victim and the perpetrator knew each other. Because these were cases of acquaintance assault and rape CNU did not believe that students were under any imminent threat. But this gets the facts about sexual violence wrong. The studies show that it is acquaintances–not strangers—-that pose a threat to college women. Failure to report these cases is a form of victim blaming, thinly veiled. It rests on the unstated premise that in cases of acquaintance assault and rape the fault does not lie solely with the perpetrator. It implies that the victim was complicit in the assault; that she “asked for it” or let things go to far. Failure to treat these assaults with more seriousness tells the student body, both women and men, that acquaintance assault and rape is acceptable in a way that stranger rape–which we are to assume would have been reported–is not. CNU’s failure to report these cases in part because the victim knew the perpetrator tolerates and excuses acquaintance assault and rape. One might even say CNU’s failure to report condones these assaults, accepting them as a fact of college campus life.

Fifteen years ago when I was a high school student in Newport News my Latin teacher taught us a Latin phrase every week. One I still remember is ‘dum tacent clamant’ which translates as ‘While they are silent, they shout’. CNU’s apathetic response to these assaults is a form of acceptance; the university’s silence is as sharp as a shout.

Courtney Murphy

1 comment

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