This post, though not graphic, openly discusses
rape and gender politics at US universities.
As a Professor at a University, you are privy to the underlying, ever-present politics that involve everything from promotion & tenure, to what constitutes “rape” when the institutions are legally required to report crimes at their institutions.
Over the course of my University career, I taught at quite a few universities and colleges, many times as a full-time visiting Professor before I completed my degree since I’d been an adjunct at the university or college that needed someone for a year while one of their Professors went on sabbatical. Even as a visiting Professor who’d only be there for a year, I was expected to participate in all the non-teaching activities that are required of tenured Professors.
At two of those Universities, I witnessed first-hand the metaphorical rape of students and faculty there once the schools became legally obligated to reveal the reported number of rapes at their institutions.
Originally, Ohio universities and colleges, whether 2-year or 4-year, whether private or public (i.e., state-funded) were not required to submit any statistics — to anyone — about any campus crimes, misdemeanor or felony. For some reason, the state legislature changed that law while I happened to be working full-time at two universities, so I was intimately involved in the process, as were all their Professors and administrators (staff-members were never included in these political concerns of the schools, though they, too, were affected by any administrative decisions).
The new Ohio law required all higher education institutions to make their “crime statistics” public knowledge, especially the rates of theft, vandalism, (non-sexual) assault, and rape.
It seemed no one had a problem revealing the statistics of the first three categories because, frankly, even at the schools where I taught (one was among the poorest in the country, the other was one of the wealthiest and most elite), those things simply weren’t a problem. (Although, actually, the wealthy school had a higher incidence of petty theft — from students, staff, and faculty — than did the poorer school.)
Revealing rape statistics, however, caused the administrators at both schools great alarm.
At the state-funded public university, it was decided — almost exclusively by the president — that “date rape” would not be included in the statistics. His reason? It ain’t rape if they’re dating. Male and female faculty alike objected. He threatened us with pay-cuts, no tenure if we didn’t have it already, and no future promotions — ever. To my horror, most of the faculty — especially the males, I’m sorry to say, but a good number of the females as well — were immediately and forever silenced.
The President then changed the definition of “date rape” to include any rape that happened when the boy and girl knew each other, even if they were only in the same class together, even if the girl didn’t know the boy’s name, only his face.
The faculty objected in a body.
It was threatened with being fired.
I would like to say that more than one or two of us continued to object, but it wouldn’t be true.
As a rape victim myself — raped, molested, sodomized, and forced to perform fellatio by my biological father and by my step-father for over 15 years, and viciously raped with sharp kitchen instruments and household tools by my mother when I was 11 and started my period — I continued to protest. I was ordered, in no uncertain terms, as well as in malicious, obscene language, to keep my mouth shut. (I didn’t, but, for some reason, I wasn’t fired; unfortunately, it didn’t change the way “date rape” was defined at that university.)
Of course, male-on-male rape was literally laughed at as a possibility, despite my mentioning that I knew for a fact that one of my students (who was gay, though I didn’t say that) at that University had been raped by several football players. For being gay. I was told that it “didn’t count” because men couldn’t be raped.
In fact, though the term LGBT was not in use at that time, any LGBT sexual assault was dismissed and not included in the statistics at that university because, the President claimed, “those people asked for it.”
Also eliminated were “gang rapes” where multiple assailants attack one person. No reason was given for this. We could only conclude that it happened far more than the University wanted anyone to know.
Not surprisingly, the President continued to redefine the definition and categories of “rape” until the numbers were so low that no one would consider the campus unsafe. (Rapes or assaults of female faculty or staff members — whether by students, staff, or other faculty — were never even considered, though there were quite a few. Most of those women quit in protest.)
I was livid, not only for my students, but for all women, men, and children who are raped every single day. I was also frustrated since I had no political power or support to change what was being done with the University’s rape statistics.
Though several faculty members repeatedly brought up the fact that reported rapes are only a small percentage of the actual rapes that are occurring, these faculty comments were ignored. (In 2008, nearly 90,000 people reported being raped in the United States, with an arrest rate of 25%. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 39,590 men and 164,240 women were victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault during that same year.) Faculty who brought up that fact were simply told that if the crime hadn’t been reported to the authorities, the school couldn’t possibly know about it or report it in its statistics; while that was true, the administrators were intentionally and deliberately being obtuse about the discrepancy regarding actual and reported rapes in the entire world, let alone on its campus.
The end result? The University had a very low incidence of rapes, so it was a “safe” campus.
Meanwhile, at the private, elite college where I was simultaneously a Visiting Professor for one year, helping out a friend/colleague who was on sabbatical, I expected something quite different. This school was known for its LGBT community (though, again, that term was not in use anywhere at the time, so they were all simply considered “gay” or “bi-“), including many faculty members, students, staff, and even some of the curriculum itself (which embraced LGBT Studies, which it called — no lie — “Queer Studies,” to make the students, many of whom had been rejected by parents wealthy enough to afford its higher-than-Harvard’s private tuition as well as by their peers in high school or in other colleges or universities, feel “safe, honored, respected, and nurtured”).
Except, it became apparent, when it came to revealing rape statistics to the public.
I don’t recall how many sexual assaults or rapes occurred on the actual campus grounds or in its buildings, but I do remember very clearly the number and location of the rapes this college most vehemently wanted to exclude from its reporting.
When this college had been founded, it had been granted over 1,000 acres of green space — in perpetuity, so long as the college didn’t sell the land, develop it, kept it open (free of charge) to the public, and named it after the Donor’s deceased child. The college’s green space bordered 3,000 other acres of public green space. Though all 4,000 acres were closed at night because there were no lights, rivers ran through them, and they were filled with high cliffs and rock walls, some people did go there at night. Especially this college’s students.
Those were the first rapes that weren’t counted in the college’s reported statistics. Why? Because everybody should know better than to go there at night.
And, besides, How did the college know whether the rapes occurred on its 1,000 acres and not on any of the remaining acres since they were indistinguishable and unmarked?
Next, any rapes occurring at night and on the weekends were eliminated. Why? Because how do we know how many tourists visited the area and they aren’t students at the college.
I was horrified. I wasn’t a tourist. I’d lived in that village for almost 10 years. I went into that nature preserve — alone — all the time. I used its “public” walking/biking path virtually every day. Until I learned how many rapes, attempted rapes, and sexual assaults occurred to people on the walking path, some of which bordered the 1,000 acres owned by the college and located within the village itself, most of which ran through the more isolated areas of the college’s 1,000 acres. It seems the people using the path were literally grabbed by people who jumped out of the dense woods and dragged the walkers or runers into the isolated areas where they were attacked with no fear of discovery.
19 rapes a month.
(Needless to say, that ended my solo trips into the preserve, and all my walks & runs along the path.)
The college did not want to reveal that figure, as you can imagine. Many of the faculty had been unaware of that number, too, and we were horrified, to say the least. Some of us regularly encouraged our students to make use of the green space for artistic inspiration, meditation, exercise (I was one of those who suggested, to my creative writing students, that it would be a great place to write or get ideas for their projects: that suggestion ended immediately, accompanied by warnings about the rapes).
The college wasn’t happy about 19-rapes-per-month number. And bear in mind, 19 rapes per month was the number after the attacks which occurred on the weekends and after dark were excluded.
The college found ways to reduce the number of its reported rapes.
First, it eliminated any that were between a student (victim) and a non-student (assailant), even when one of the assailants had been a faculty member. Student-student rapes were the only ones to be counted. For some reason, student (assailant) and non-student (victim) rapes were not considered important enough to be discussed.
“Date-rapes” were also excluded, despite the faculty’s objections.
Then the college did something even more outrageous and unforgivable, especially considering its student body, and the sexual orientation of over half of its faculty.
It excluded all LGBT rapes: female-female, male-male, male-female — it didn’t matter. If the rape victim didn’t identify as “heterosexual,” the rape wasn’t included. Not if it took place in the 1,000-acre green space, not if it happened on the college grounds themselves, not if it happened in any of the college buildings, including the dorms and library.
The faculty, especially the women, literally screamed and shouted their outraged protests. They threatened to go public with the information. They threatened to quit en masse. They threatened to tell all the students at the institution the exact number of reported rapes that were occurring on the college’s property (which many of us did anyway as soon as we learned of them). The college would not back down.
Like the other University, it eliminated “gang-rape” from the definition of rape, even if only one person had actually committed the crime and the others had just been observers. In short, it redefined “gang-rape.”
As did the University, the private college did not include reported rapes of faculty or staff members, whether male or female.
Not surprisingly, after so much manipulation of the statistics, the college had a surprisingly low number of reported rapes.
Just like the other University where I taught.
So each of these schools — and I’m guessing many more, besides — redefined “rape” when it reported statistics to the state. I felt like I was a child again, being raped by my father, stepfather, and mother, then ignored or called a “liar” whenever I told someone what had happened.
After submitting their significantly manipulated rape statistics, both schools received a “safe environment” rating from the state; said “safe environment” rating was published in an annual guide to colleges and universities, along with the actual number (and percentage, for comparison) of rapes reported by each school.
When I was young, I was told that only strangers could rape someone, that fathers never raped their own children, and that mothers certainly couldn’t do it even if they used kitchen implements or household tools. As an adult, it became common to hear others telling young men that “if a girl says no, she means no, and that if the man proceeds, it is rape.” Nothing was ever mentioned about men or LGBTs saying No, so I suppose they couldn’t be raped, just as I was never raped throughout my childhood.
Even now, in a blog-post I read the other day, a woman claimed that young women “cause attacks to happen” because of the way they dress, because they sometimes drink or use recreational drugs around other people or in public places like restaurants, bars, and sporting events, because they don’t say No loudly enough, often enough, or they don’t accompany their No with enough physical resistance.
That blogger never called the attacks “rapes” although she was repeatedly discussing the “rape culture” that the young women themselves are creating. She also never mentioned males or LGBTs.
So, I guess I learned something new after reading her post. Just as I did when I was a child and told teachers, doctors, neighbors, and family members what was being done to me. Just as I did years ago while teaching at the University & college where they redefined rape to reduce their reported rape statistics.
I learned there are times when a sexual assault, no matter how violent or vicious, no matter which part of the body is violated, no matter the victim’s gender, is not rape.
When is rape not rape?
When someone more powerful than the victim says it’s not.
I Survived a Serial Killer: My Own Mother
(guest post on RachelintheOC)