The Official Campus Rape Narrative

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Early promotional material for the Respect. Now. Always campaign

The Official Campus Rape Narrative:

Responsible Victims and Absent Perpetrators

One of my first memories university involved attending a compulsory seminar for students living in university residential accommodation. This seminar separated students by gender to talk about campus rape. The boys were taught how not to ‘cross the line” while the girls were taught how to avoid being raped and “keep ourselves safe”. This is just one of a billion examples when I was made to feel the responsibility for preventing my own rape. The thing is though, not one of these examples has ever made me safer. Instead I just felt more afraid, more helpless.

The problem of university campus rape has persisted, albeit under a spotlight, in recent years. The narrative we are fed generally involves “drunk partygoers” who “go too far” and “accidentally” end up committing a crime.

I do not know a woman who hasn’t had some experience with sexual abuse, whether it was harassment or rape. I know some men who have, but I know more who have  not. More and more attention is being drawn to the experiences of women who have been raped, and the institutions in which this has been allowed to take place.

These institutions, are generally male dominated and have a boys club mentality that seems enduring no matter how many women might start to join it. They range from the military, sport, and even in our universities. The latter has received particular media attention following on from a trend of exposing US campus rape thanks to documentary The Hunting Ground, and the many survivors who have spoken about the ordeal of trying to get justice for ourselves.  

Australian universities’ official response to the problem of campus sexual assault has involved the development of posters that aim to draw attention to the campaign. However, many of these official campaign materials position survivors or potential victims as inherently responsible for rape prevention. This campaign neglects to include potential or actual perpetrators  in this narrative, instead relying on the vigilance of victims. This narrative is a tale as old as time that does nothing to actually tackle the problem of campus rape and does not incorporate the findings of actual, proven research. It is time that universities heed the advice of the experts from within their own institutions.

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