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Op−Ed | It’s time to talk

Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 08:03

I am currently abroad, and a friend of mine on campus hinted that I might find the commentary and conversations on the Tufts Confessions Facebook page both horrifying and grossly fascinating. He was right. I realized that a fair amount of Tufts students clearly do not understand — either because they refuse to be educated or because they have not been educated — rape culture and/or sexual assault. They do not understand anything about victim blaming, they do not understand anything about the dehumanization of rapists and victims alike and they do not understand the words “trigger warning,” “consent” and “trauma,” among others, that shape our society’s and our campus’ approach to other human beings.

Rape culture is real. Sexual assault is real. These things happen daily, and they happen on our campus. I know this because it happened to me, to my friend and to the person who wrote that they identify as a rapist on the Facebook page. It happened to other students who felt they could not speak out for fear of shame, vilification or invalidation. It may be happening right now, on our campus, at Tufts.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), one in five women will be the survivor of an assault or attempted assault during her college years, and a significant number of men will experience assault as well. Two−thirds of women are attacked by someone they know, and a significant number of men will experience this as well. This is an issue that both men and women experience, are witnesses to and must deal with. It is not a problem that is unique to one area of the country or to any one school. It is not a problem that any one school is exempt from. It is not a problem that is unique to one gender, one race, one ethnicity or one stereotype of person (jocks, for example). Sexual assault and rape culture are products of a culture that refuses to recognize gender inequalities, power dynamics and the consequences of taboos on discussing sex and healthy relationships, and it is pervasive in our societies and on campuses across our country. It happens to our friends, it happens to our family, it happens to the gay student from Ghana as well as the straight white girl on financial aid from Washington. It happens to the boy who just wanted to take someone on a date and things moved too quickly for him, and it happens to the girl who went to a frat party and found herself naked and being penetrated when she said she wasn’t sure if she wanted it or not.

We are all players in the game of life, and we are all complicit in the creation — and, thus, the dismantling — of rape culture. To believe that rapists, victims and rape culture are separate from us in someone’s dorm room or on a Facebook page, at parties or in bars, is cowardly and shows a disgusting lack of responsibility for our actions and lack of respect toward other human beings. We reinforce rape culture through the ways that we conduct ourselves every day — through our language and both our unconscious and conscious actions.

If we, as Tufts students, want to have a campus that is culturally positive about drinking (clearly not, see: Winter Bash), encourages sex positivity (clearly not: Read about what students on Tufts Confessions think about rape and sexual assault on campus, as well as how males and females “should” act), we need to be educated on alcohol, drugs and sex.

We need to understand that these are problems on our campus that affect how women feel in the gym and how men feel while at fraternity parties. We need to evaluate, re−evaluate and pick apart how we contribute to sexual assault and rape culture, as well as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, gender inequalities and power dynamics. We need to have open dialogues that avoid vilification, judgment and disrespect. We need to support one another as Jumbos.

So, to begin the dialogue: If you think it is a gray area, don’t do it. If the person does not explicitly say yes, don’t do it.

Alcohol and drugs can lead to some people feeling less sexually inhibited and more likely to engage in sexual activity, so make sure they can communicate clearly and express their desire to have, or not have, sex. Just because someone’s drunk doesn’t mean they’ve given consent. They’re just drunk. It has absolutely nothing to do with consent.

It happens here. Let´s change things together.

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Sarah Tralins is a junior majoring in child development. She can be reached at Sarah.Tralins@tufts.edu.

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