College Artist Corner

The Appalachian State University Rape Culture

Posted by: Amiris J. Brown on: March 9, 2012

Silence is Violence: END Rape Culture!

Silence is Violence: END Rape Culture! This image is under a Creative Commons license agreement. Work and photograph by Amiris Brown (me) made for and taken during the “No Equal? No More!” silent demonstration held during Friday, March 2nd in front of I.G. Greer at Appalachian State University.

 

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.[1][2] 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.[3][4] 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.[4] 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.[1][5]

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.[1][5][6] Four of the five rapists were members of the ASU football team at that time.[1][5] During the fall semester of 2011, two of the four rapists who played football for ASU committed rape again against another female ASU student.[1][5][6] 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.[6] 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.[6]

Improper procedure allowed the return of those two serial rapists back onto ASU’s campus.[1][5][6] In addition, one of the two serial rapists were placed back onto the football team.[1][5][7] 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”.[6] 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.[5][6]

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.[1] 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.[6] Yet, “[b]oth alleged victims confirmed to the Watauga Democrat that they initially asked the sheriff’s office not to release their names”.[5] 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”.[8] 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.[9] 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”.[10] 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”.[10] 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.[11][12][13][14] 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.[11][12][13][14][15] As one article headlines, “Stop Telling Women How to Not Get Raped”, and instead implement, “… anti-rape campaigns …”.[16] 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.[11][14] 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.[17] 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.

Sources:

  1. No Equal? No More! Silent Demonstration: https://www.facebook.com/events/304001416324315/ (alternate access URL: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BzDJrvfqY3Mec2ppX2lNT2dSai1ZZk5aRGRDRnlmUQ)
  2. Yale Is Subject of Title IX Inquiry: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/us/01yale.html?_r=1
  3. Nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. has been sexually assaulted: http://feministing.com/2011/12/15/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-the-u-s-has-been-sexually-assaulted/
  4. RAINN Statistics: http://www.rainn.org/statistics
  5. ASU actions under scrutiny: http://www2.wataugademocrat.com/News/story/ASU-actions-under-scrutiny-id-007147 (alternate access URL: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BzDJrvfqY3MeOThQcWtINmRRanFzSVlObXV6aHZlQQ)
  6. Athletes Accused: http://theappalachianonline.com/campus/8667-athletes-accusedcontroversy-grows-as-administration-reverses-suspension-for-two-football-players-found-responsible-by-a-university-conduct-board (alternate access URL: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BzDJrvfqY3MeZGdRX2RMTWdRc0thUTJWaFFaUGVqUQ)
  7. Student protest set on sexual crime allegations: http://www2.wataugademocrat.com/News/story/Student-protest-set-on-sexual-crime-allegations-id-007139 (alternate access URL: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BzDJrvfqY3MeeTlNSGdvajVSaXFKYWhBdFJzOXRpQQ)
  8. Students campaign in support of alleged sexual assault victims: http://www.theappalachianonline.com/campus/8666-students-campaign-in-support-of-alleged-sexual-assault-victims (alternate access URL: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BzDJrvfqY3MeQ202ZXJGZWhTMVN2Q3JvTmQ3ZnJEZw)
  9. Disabled women and sexual assault: http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2011/04/disabled_women_
  10. LGBTQQI – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex: http://www.mecasa.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=87&Itemid=245
  11. ‘Stop the Hate, Show the Love’ Awareness Event for Two Assault Victims, March 2 at ASU Student Union: http://www.hcpress.com/events/stop-the-hate-show-the-love-awareness-event-for-two-assault-victims-march-2-at-asu-student-union.html
  12. Teen Accused In Assaults On 2 Women: http://www.wxii12.com/news/30472838/detail.html
  13. Second charged in assault on Boone women: http://www2.wataugademocrat.com/News/story/Second-charged-in-assault-on-Boone-women-id-007127
  14. Amend NC Hate Crime Laws: http://www.change.org/petitions/amend-nc-hate-crime-laws
  15. Guest post: Students mobilize to support hate crime victims and organize the change the law in Boone, N.C.: http://www.campusprideblog.org/blog/guest-post-students-mobilize-support-hate-crime-victims-and-organize-change-law-boone-nc
  16. Stop Telling Women How to Not Get Raped: http://www.ebony.com/news-views/stop-telling-women-how-to-not-get-raped
  17. Rape: power, anger, and sexuality: http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?Volume=134&page=1239&journalID=13

*Note:

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.

 

Edited by:
Becka Nan Amos

36 Responses to "The Appalachian State University Rape Culture"

I think the problem is the failed acknowledgment of the history of violence on children and women in United States. A lot of people fail to address rape because they deem it acceptable due to our historical culture. The issue of rape in the south (Not just NC) is big because a lot of past documented historical violence and documented hate crimes and has been a issue to challenge in this region. Even though we live in a modern world, there are still people that pass the violence culture to their offspring and deem it acceptable. To put it in perspective. Look at the current GOP candidates. One is talking about limiting woman’s rights and the other is talking about bringing back child labor. This is an example of people in america that deem such things acceptable. Something to think about. If a candidate wants to take away contraception, so would you say that candidate is pro rape then? Another problem is that we have people out there that want to control everything. I think the movie the woman captures it the best. Just because someone is savage, does not mean that they are not humane. It is the so called well products of society that we have to watch out for. They want to control their wife, their kids, there livelihood. I not trying to cause a political debate on the comment feed. I am not for any political party in the USA, so if you want to troll me cause I talked about the GOP, shoot me.

“I think the problem is the failed acknowledgment of the history of violence on children and women in United States.” Yes, which goes back to my point of rape thriving among, “… institutional and cultural pacification and normalization.” I also wanted to mention the GOP candidates escalation of war on women, but I took out that line too because it wasn’t narrow enough on the subject at hand. It was something along the lines of, “… course there’s not much to celebrate,
when female bodies continue to be objectified as sexual desire retail items and baby-making factories.” I took that comment out and focused strictly on more explicit forms of rape. There are other subjects I left out of this blog post. I left out any mentioning of the regional analysis of the U.S. South, I also left out linking it to the national issues of rape culture, along with the sexual exploitation of the Global South. I left out how rape disproportionately affects the U.S. Indigenous population and how that can be interconnected to various cultures across the USA and the world. I specifically left out touching on the interconnection of how race and rape culture intersect in general. Why was race left out? In all of the reports regarding the rape case(s), the race of the survivors and the rapists were never mentioned. The same goes for the issue of Transgender, never was the gender of the Hate Crime survivors explicitly reveled in any of the reports I came across. In short, I cannot give an opinion on what I do not know of, and leaving room for speculation would be too long of an explanation for just one blog post. This blog post was already long enough, but I felt over 1,000 words was fine to take up space, because that is what needs to be done. Women/Womyn to this day, all over the world are expected NOT to take up space. This is a demand that we take up all the space that is needed to adequately address our grievances. We need to take up space in order to address this ongoing epidemic of violence in general.

I am glad that you have brought up the issues I was unable to articulate concisely on the topic in this blog post. This is exactly what needs to happen, people need to be having conversations constantly. Thank you for your comment Bre.

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[...] Amiris Brown is a student and artist at Appalachian State University who has taken a direct and passionate stance against rape culture.  Through a series of art pieces and projects, Amiris hopes to bring visibility and concern to a culture that allows the lack of accountability in our communities to flourish.  The Art of Dismantling is extremely excited to support Amiris and her projects and cannot stress enough the importance of addressing and combating cultural themes that reinforce the continuation of oppression.  To learn more about the project and to support it, please visit: https://www.wepay.com/donations/art-to-end-rape-culture-at-app-state?utm_campaign=donations&utm_medium=link&utm_source=facebook&ref_uid=1522465 http://www.collegeartistcorner.com/?p=52 [...]

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There is a lot of research not specific to App State, but on the issues of Rape Culture. Specifically there’s tons of research and resources focused on the exploitation of student-athletes as well as the role of privileged social status that are intricate in shaping the power dynamics that are the overarching factors of such acts of violence. So I hope you find more info with all that in mind.

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