Erin Cavalier, a rising junior at Catholic University, recently spoke to The Washington Post about being a victim of sexual assault. When it happened, she brought it to Catholic’s administration, which, after extended waiting and investigations, cleared the perpetrator.
As the Postdescribes, “The board issued a verdict six days later, finding that ‘no force was involved,’ that Cavalier was ‘not incapable of giving consent’ and that the male student ‘would not reasonably have thought’ that Cavalier was incapacitated or unable to give consent.” (Read the full story here)
Rape has always been indefinite. In our day and age, it’s not only a present and growing threat to people everywhere, but also an intensely polarizing and difficult topic. When I think of rape, I imagine the age-old scenario, that of a young woman being assaulted by a random stranger while walking home at night.
In reality, rape is often very different from the remote picture painted in high school health class or on the latest “Law and Order.” It’s much scarier. About two-thirds of all rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, and they affect everyone, including both genders and all sexual orientations.
Rape culture will not disappear on its own. The simple truth is that unless we recognize what it really is, it will only become more and more difficult to prevent. Rape, consent, coercion; these are words in dire need of a redefinition.
I have heard far too many stories like Erin Cavalier’s. The culture surrounding rape and rape culture has resulted in victims who are too scared to speak up.
Inadequate definitions lead them to wonder whether their own encounters were even instances of rape in the first place. There should be no ambiguities, and yet they abound in almost every rape case that makes headlines.
This exact mindset is what allows rape to continue.
The responsibility of reshaping our culture rests with us. We are in danger of remaining grounded in outdated, sexist views of rape, and unless we do something about the way we define and categorize the cases of assault that have become so common in our society, it will keep happening.
Acknowledge rape as rape, wherever it occurs, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to do so. People like Erin can’t afford to gamble on ambiguities anymore.