The article titled “Women’s rights movements provoke mass hysteria, perpetuate victimhood culture” by Thomas Thorgersen conflates the progress of women in aggregate with the continued necessity of feminist and #MeToo movements. The sentiments argued in this piece sharply dismiss the perpetuation of rape culture by rapists, complicit bystanders and institutional forces. According to Thorgersen, “there is no rape culture in the United States, and there certainly isn’t one on college campuses either.” However wishful we would like to be about society’s progress, we must face the reality that rape culture is real and is prevalent on college campuses — including our own.
For years, it was the norm for occurrences of sexual assault to be swept under the rug. Most would go unreported, many of the accused would never even be brought to the courtroom and, if they were, they would have walked away with barely a slap on the wrist. This is the way it was three years ago at the University of Alabama when Megan Rondini went to the authorities to report her rape, only to be interrogated herself and pressured to transfer to a different college, where she would kill herself a year later. This is the way it was two years ago at Stanford when Brock Turner was found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman and only received six months of jail time, of which he served just three months. This is the way it was just months ago at James Madison University when Abby Gainsforth found out that her assailant would be returning to the university this coming spring.
Events like these, as well as the uncovering of numerous scandals in Hollywood, have led to the rise of feminist campaigns such as the Women’s March and the #MeToo movements. Finally, after years of injustice being unrecognized by the government, law enforcement and society as a whole, the voices of women who have been ignored and silenced are being brought to the attention of the American people. This is the way it should have always been.
Now that issues of sexual assault are being brought to public attention in powerful, undeniable movements, people have been quick to deny the extremity of the issue and to belittle the efforts being made on behalf of these groups. Opponents of the movement attempt to dismantle its credibility; however, the movement is not full of falsehoods as its opponents claim. It simply uncovers what women have always known: that sexual assault is an inevitable challenge that too many women are forced to face in their lives. Not because of self-inflicted victimhood or personal choices, but because the reality is that 1 in 5 women will be raped at some point in their lives and 91 percent of sexual assault victims are women.
Sexual assault — defined as “attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender” — takes many forms. Even when events of sexual assault are reported, the measurement processes of these events vary between the criminal justice system and public health organizations. The Association of American Universities reported the 1 in 4 statistic criticized by Thorgersen, which included 89,115 women. If that is not credible enough, researchers at the National Institute of Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center all found similar statistics.
Institutions, especially college campuses, are complicit in rape culture. Men who are found guilty of sexual assault outside of higher education face tough jail and prison sentences. Perpetrators of sexual assault on college campuses — even after being found “responsible”— face consequences much more lenient in comparison. According to the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, men found to have committed acts of sexual assault were rarely punished, and in only 10 to 25 percent of cases where the student was deemed responsible did the school expel the perpetrator — which leaves men who commit these crimes to roam college campuses in search of their next victim.
Feminist movements are not formed at the expense of men. Their purpose is to elevate women and all people to a more equal footing. Men are not losing anything because women are being treated more fairly. In fact, men have much to gain from feminist movements, such as reducing the financial and psychological harms incurred by victims and, by extension, their loved ones.
It is easy to claim that a culture that allows and arguably enables sexual assault does not exist when you are not among the population who is targeted. Now more than ever, because of these movements, those who don’t believe that rape culture exists are more aware of issues of consent and what defines sexual harassment. If being brought to understand these issues strikes fear in those who resent these movements, they are probably engaging in questionable behaviors themselves. Understanding the hardships faced by women shouldn’t be a threat, but rather an opportunity to learn.