Posted by: Amiris J. Brown on: March 9, 2012
Anyone on Appalachian State University (ASU) campus yesterday probably wouldn’t have noticed that it was International Women’s Day. Of course there’s not much to celebrate, when about one in four female college students is raped according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. In relation to ASU, there appear to be numerous complaints that ASU continues to mishandle rape cases, in which case ASU could soon experience a legal whirlwind much like what Yale University experienced in 2011. Historically, sloppy investigations and hearings are used strategically to further justify the victimization of survivors and the overall oppression of women/womyn.
Due to rape culture, violence against children, women/womyn, and men continues while rape overall remains severely under-reported. It is understandable to be apprehensive to report a sexual assault, because rape culture continues to be supported by institutionalized processes and privileged individuals. The startling fact that at least, “15 of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail” serves as a prevalent deterrent to the pursuit of justice for survivors and the families of victims. So it is no surprise that once one ASU student came out about surviving a recent sexual assault inflicted upon her, that there was another who had suffered in silence beforehand.
ASU’s rape culture is most exemplified in the two recent high profile cases that were mishandled originally. It all started when a female ASU student was gang raped by five males last April. Four of the five rapists were members of the ASU football team at that time. During the fall semester of 2011, two of the four rapists who played football for ASU committed rape again against another female ASU student. Afterwords, the Appalachian State University Conduct Board found the the two serial rapists responsible for breaking the ASU’s Student Code of Conduct regarding sexual assault, yet the guilty students were only given the minimum penalty. Minimum punishment in rape cases only serves to further victim-blaming, and to psychologically promote rape. Regardless, the decision by the Board was reversed due to the ASU administration’s incompetency to ensure hearing procedures were followed properly.
Improper procedure allowed the return of those two serial rapists back onto ASU’s campus. In addition, one of the two serial rapists were placed back onto the football team. When confronted Vice Chancellor for Student Development Cindy Wallace responded, “I do not believe that my decision to terminate the temporary suspension of the two accused students has compromised [the survivor’s] safety”. While Cindy Wallace was busy with her political posturing, the safety of both survivors was ignored by Wallace’s shameless promotion of rape culture. New hearing(s) might take place after ASU’s spring break, and hopefully this time with the University Conduct Board’s compliance to all proper procedures including the UNC Policy Manual.
Not only was the case(s) improperly handled, there was an administrative failure to protect the safety of ASU students. By failing to notify the survivors immediately upon the rapists’ return to campus, ASU doesn’t even seem interested in cohesively protecting its student population. Never mind that most of the students on the ASU campus were oblivious prior to the student demonstration protesting the rape culture that envelopes ASU’s campus. To further complicate the safety of the two survivors, The Appalachian published the names of the survivors contrary to ethical journalistic practice. Yet, “[b]oth alleged victims confirmed to the Watauga Democrat that they initially asked the sheriff’s office not to release their names”. In the mean time the serial rapists, at large on the ASU campus and one actively participating on the football team, have yet to be publicly identified.
When ASU allowed a serial rapist back onto the football team, ASU essentially condoned rape. The message ASU sent was that rapists should strive to attain athletic achievement, so that they can use their status to get away with rape. To add even further insult to injury, ASU prohibits support from the very source from which it might be most needed according to senior criminal justice major Kaylynn Prough, “Countless athletes have messaged [Prough] saying they wish they could support [the No Equal? No More!] campaign in full, but are restrained by their contracts with the university”. This unconstitutionally founded restraint, denies student-athletes at ASU individual freedom by not allowing them to distance themselves from criminal behavior if and when they chose to do so. By so restricting the free speech of student-athletes at a public university on matters that equally affect them, the university strips civil liberties while reinforcing rape culture.
How well a society treats their women/womyn, will in my opinion, greatly impact various disenfranchised groups as a whole within that society. To be clear, the impact of rape culture extends far beyond the hegemony of abled, cisgendered, heterosexuals. Differently abled women are disproportionately affected by rape culture for example, “[a]s many as 83% of women who have been disabled since childhood have been the victims of sexual assault, 49% of whom experience 10 or more incidents” during their lifetime. Society pretends not to notice such horrifying rape statistics, because differently abled women are often stereotyped as asexual or sexually dysfunctional. Furthermore, “In our society, having a sexual orientation or gender identity – real or perceived – that differs from heterosexual and the mainstream puts one at higher risk for sexual violence”. My opinion is that stereotypes of specific demographics contribute to and compound rape culture.
Stereotypes, especially relating to sexual identities, often condition society to partake in victim-blaming. It is this current reality of, “[h]omophobia, transphobia, and beliefs about gender norms [that] continue to support [and perpetuate] rape culture”. The currently unfair reality hit close to home last month when two best friends were taunted, stalked, and brutally beaten based solely upon their perceived gender and sexual orientation. To violently attack someone for being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning (LGBTQ) is to commit attempted murder on love itself. That is what makes Hate Crimes of such a nature apart of rape culture.
The Hate Crime that Ketoine Jamahl Mitchell and Brooklyn Lacrossa Canter committed against two ASU students throws the recommended preventative measure of the buddy system out the window. As one article headlines, “Stop Telling Women How to Not Get Raped”, and instead implement, “… anti-rape campaigns …”. This further demonstrates that the State of NC is plagued by rape culture. Not only did Amendment One get onto the NC May 8th 2012 ballot, but overall NC perpetuates rape culture by failing to acknowledge that there are Hate Crimes that specifically target LGBTQ communities. While physical rape is at the forefront of rape culture, the rape committed against the essence of love stems from the same origin. The reason being that, rape is about power not sexual desire. Therefore, rapists will continue to rape, so long as behaviors of rape continue to be protected by institutional and cultural pacification and normalization. Which is why we must all do our part to end rape culture in our communities of ASU, Boone, and North Carolina.
My blog is academically ranked equivalent to or lower than that of an editorial opinion. This specific blog post is nonobjective and is intentionally biased, because my hope is that a strong articulated opinion will distinguish the intersection of oppressions that are at play among these incidences yet continue to be ignored or silenced.
Becka Nan Amos