I am troubled that the article "Rape Culture and Christian Colleges" (March 2017) unintentionally perpetuates the false idea that sexual violence and rape culture are not part of Christian college campuses or Christian's experience.
To the many readers who have been sexually assaulted, one of the most hurtful realities is the denial of one’s experience, the minimization of the problem. Even worse is the placement of blame for their own victimization.
Rape culture is the environment in which sexual assault is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized and perpetuated. It is reflected and reinforced in language, images, laws, and everyday interactions. Examples include the trivialization of sexual violence through comments such as “boys will be boys” and using euphemisms such as “sexual misconduct” (when in fact, sexual assault—a broader term than rape—is a criminal offense). Rape culture is teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of transforming the culture so that men do not rape. Statistics (such that 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted in college) reflect rape culture. Rape culture is the tendency for colleges to cover up sexual assault (as in the recent charges at Baylor University).
We need to boldly shine a light on the truth that sexual violence and rape culture are prevalent, impacting individuals we know and the communities in which we live. For instance, at Calvin College, we have collected information on the problem. This data suggests that approximately 1 in 10 students experience a form of sexual violence during an academic year. And if you think this refers only to women, you’d be wrong.
Denial of rape culture IS rape culture. Instead we must acknowledge and lament this aspect of brokenness in our world. Only when we repent and identify our role in the problem can we move toward restoration. We recognize that religious beliefs, texts, and teachings can serve both as roadblocks and as resources for victim-survivors. Similarly, religious institutions can promote justice by acknowledging the truth, or they can perpetuate myths related to sexual violence, thereby reinforcing rape culture.
Any amount of violence is worth fighting against, and any symptom of rape culture needs to be addressed. Here are a few examples of what we are doing at Calvin:
1. Collecting data on incidence of violence and perceptions of the campus climate.
2. Providing training related to sexual violence prevention for all students.
3. Organizing events to raise awareness and educate the campus.
4. Providing information about reporting and services to victim-survivors.
5. Offering individual counseling and support groups for victim-survivors.
And yet, we have a long way to go.