Column by Madeline Cramer
In the midst of all the rumors circulating here at Drake University, where a few fraternity members were about to host a themed party called “Pigtails and Pedophiles,” and people were actually about to attend it, we, as a community, need to focus on what truly matters.
This party was merely one of the many examples that rape culture exists on our campus.
We cannot analyze each of the situations independent of one another.
Let us look at the bigger picture. Instead of solely consuming ourselves with the “who” and the “what” of these scenarios, let us ask ourselves: “Why?” Why does it keep happening? Why do people justify it?
Furthermore, there needs to be a clear distinction between what these individuals did and who these individuals are.
We must hold the few fraternity members accountable for attempting to throw a party that makes a mockery of child molestation as well as everyone who was about to attend it.
While these individuals acted in an ignorant and insensitive manner, it is not a revelation of who they are as people.
If our only objective is to combat rape culture, we must always remember this. People are inherently good. We all deserve a second chance. We deserve an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. We must practice forgiveness. We must teach. After all, rape culture is a battle that is fought on college campuses all over the country.
It doesn’t end there. Rape culture finds us on the streets, in the lyrics of popular music, on magazine covers, movies, commercials, etc. We live in a country that obsesses over sex yet finds discomfort in discussing the negative side effects that it yields. It is only through open dialogue and education that we can hope to heal from them.
According to the United States of Department of Justice, sexual assault “is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.
Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest fondling, and attempted rape.”
An article about the themed party, “Pigtails and Pedophiles” was recently written in Total Frat Move. The author explicitly stated that we have to “deal with the reality we actually live in.”
Here is the reality: According to Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes. Every. Two. Minutes. Rape culture is the act of normalizing this statistic through making a joke of it.
“That test raped me,” or, “Let’s dress up as pedophiles,” are two examples that enable sexual assault to be a topic of humor. In order to shift the paradigm, we must recognize that there is nothing funny about sexual assault.
The two components that sustain rape culture are naivety and indifference. The author of TFM argued that people should not take offense to something that does not “overtly or directly hurt anyone else.” This very statement embodies naivety.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women and one in six men are sexually abused before the age of 18. This means that there are more than 42 million adult survivors in the United States.
According to a Broman-Fulks study, 73 percent of child victims don’t tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year. Forty-five percent of victims don’t tell anyone for at least five years.
The haunting reality is that the true prevalence of child sexual assault victims will never be known. Researchers of the Children’s Assessment Center conclude that only 8 percent — 20 percent of all victims have come forward.
Can the author of TFM, the fraternity members, and those who were going to attend the party conclude with utmost certainty that this party did not “overtly or directly hurt anyone else?” We cannot excuse bad behavior as “harmless.” If the theme of this party were truly harmless, there would not have been a public outcry against it.
The party could have been triggering to survivors of sexual abuse while diminishing their recovery.
It is due to parties like this, where people choose to make a mockery of such a traumatizing experience, that survivors of sexual assault feel as though they cannot come forward with their stories.
The author of TFM wrote that he was not personally offended by the theme of the party. He argues that there is no point in calling attention to something that offends us because that kind of behavior is going to happen regardless.
For those who did take offense to the party, he argues that instead of “imposing their beliefs on another group of people,” the solution is to simply ignore it. “Ignoring” something that offends us exemplifies the same kind of apathy that causes us to be detached, inconsiderate and thoughtless. It desensitizes us.
Beyond the normalization of sexual assault, this kind of apathy creates an unsafe space for victims of every kind.
The author of TFM also wrote that “at least (the themed party) isn’t racist.”
Just this year, a group of students from Lee University dressed in “blackface” for Halloween, and there was a public outcry against it.
His logic proclaims that a “racist” party is different from a “perpetuation of rape culture” party.
In reality, they are one in the same. We cannot excuse one insensitive act by questioning if it is better or worse than another insensitive act.
We cannot appropriate what we do not know.
The few who organized the “Pedophiles and Pigtails” party and those who were going to attend were appropriating what they did not know — the psychological and emotional trauma, the flashbacks, the post-traumatic stress disorder and other side effects that are relentless.
All of this is unfathomable to anyone who has the privilege of not being a survivor of sexual assault.
Yet, we justify this bad behavior because we empathize with the accused instead of the victims. When the story of this themed party blew up, everyone asked, “Who is at fault?” Instead of, “Who could have been negatively affected by it?”
So, what keeps us indifferent? Perhaps we feel uncomfortable going against a tide of popular opinion. In general, people crave a sense of belonging.
It takes a very loud sense of courage to stand up against a group of people, especially knowing it could push you out of the inner circle.
However, the groups we affiliate ourselves with and the titles we possess are irrelevant in our process of sifting through right and wrong.
We must hold one another accountable.
We must work to be more sensitive to what is clearly offensive, recognizing and acknowledging when others act in poor taste.
We must strive to be sensitive to the realities of the suffering in the world.
If we don’t, we are only perpetuating these ugly cycles — the very ones we should be breaking.
Cramer is a first-year politics major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org