During my freshman year of college, a girl who lived in my dorm was raped. It was during the first month of school. I didn’t know her well. As the rumors spread, I remember thinking, “Oh yeah, the blonde with the big boobs.”
I remember having a conversation with my friend about how nice the accused boy seemed. I remember that friend replying, “She did wear low cut shirts during orientation — makes sense she would start a rumor like that.”
The survivor transferred from my college the following semester.
During my senior year of college, my best friend was the president of his fraternity. During the fall semester, there was a reported case of rape that occurred with two males and one female in the basement during a party. All I remember is how stressed my friend was because, as president, he had to deal with the legal proceedings of the case. The case was closed without either of the men being prosecuted. I remember being upset because my favorite fraternity was put on probation (no parties on the weekend) for two months. I never knew the survivor.
The documentary The Hunting Ground taught me I was part of campus rape culture, and I didn’t even realize it. It is estimated that between 20 percent and 25 percent of women experience completed or attempted rape over the course of a college career. That means for every 1,000 women attending a college or university, there are 35 incidents of rape each academic year.
Sitting in the theater at a local screening of The Hunting Ground, my stomach churned as survivor after survivor appeared on screen telling the story of how their campus authorities refused to properly prosecute rape charges. There was the story of administration delaying a rape investigation 11 months because the rapist was a star quarterback.
One UNC administrator replied to a survivor’s story, “Rape was like football. She should think of the replay to see what she could have done differently.”
The most powerful aspect of The Hunting Ground was how it revealed the depth of the epidemic of campus sexual assault. Sexual assault does not only occur at large schools or small schools. It doesn’t happen only on the East Coast or West Coast. Sexual assault happens across the country — including my own college campus.
I remember during freshman orientation when older girls warned me not to go to a certain fraternity because this group was more likely to put roofies in drinks. I remember hearing an older female friend say, “I don’t go to ATO (a particular fraternity on campus) anymore because I had a bad encounter there with a brother, and I don’t want to see him.”
I remember hearing these things and not thinking much of it. I never thought to myself that the assumption that females were in danger when they went out to a party was strange.
That is rape culture.
I was participating in creating rape culture. I perhaps still am. While writing this article, I did a quick Google search of my own alma mater and the word “rape.” What turned up?
“I was raped 3 times at this school, and the college has been ENTIRELY unhelpful after the fact, if ‘sympathetic’. Do not expect any real help or support from anyone. Dec 09 2013, 3rd Year Female, Class 2014.”
2014 was my graduating class. How many girls in my own graduating class were raped? How many did I know? How many rapists were allowed to remain on campus?
The Hunting Ground concluded with this sobering statistic: "If nothing changes, more than 100,000 college students will be sexually assaulted in the upcoming school year."
And until we start talking about it, until we start holding institutions of higher education to higher standards, until we start questioning the assumptions that rape culture perpetuates, it will continue.
WATCH the trailer for The Hunting Ground here.
Kaeley McEvoy is Campaigns Assistant at Sojourners.