In Public and Private, Cut Ties with Perpetrators of Rape Culture

Last week, some well-meaning vigilante anonymously posted several lists of people alleged to be “perpetrators of rape culture” and “perpetrators of sexual assault” in three bathrooms across Pitzer College’s campus. The names were not accompanied by explanations. There was no way to verify or refute the anonymous allegations.

Anonymously accusing people of sexual assault on a bathroom wall is unacceptable, but it is undeniable that the 5Cs have a rape culture problem. By “rape culture,” I mean the social culture here that allows students to stand by and passively enable rapists without being called out. Most students in Claremont claim to be against rape, but students who commit rape are still accepted by many social groups. We invite them to parties, eat meals with them, and nod hello on our way to class.

When we hear of rape allegations against someone that we know personally, we make excuses for them. We tell ourselves that the accused cannot be a rapist because they have stickers supporting consent on their laptop, or they vote for progressive candidates, or they are nice to us personally. We justify speaking to perpetrators of sexual assault because they are our friends, and the idea that they could be capable of something so horrible is unfathomable.

This way of thinking is inexcusable. Every time we make nice with a sexual predator, we are showing survivors of sexual assault that they do not matter. 19 percent of women in college in the United States will be sexually assaulted by graduation. The same is true for 1 in 16 men in college. Most of these rapes—more than 90 percent — will not be reported to the administration.

That is why individual students must do their part to end rape culture. By interacting socially with people we know are rapists, we normalize their presence on campus. Even casual friendships with rapists help perpetuate rape culture.

My stance might seem overly dramatic and extreme, but these casual social relationships are what allow rapists to perpetrate their crimes. 75 percent  of all rapes are committed by someone the survivor knows. If we are serious about reducing the astronomical number of sexual assaults committed on campuses every year, we cannot include known rapists in our social circles. Befriending rapists allows them to meet more potential victims and makes us complicit in rape culture.

Ostracizing rapists has the potential to be especially effective because most campus rapes are committed by a relatively small number of people. One study found that 9 out of 10 campus rapes at one university were committed by serial rapists. Socially isolating perpetrators of sexual assault would be more effective in ending rapes than more commonly used tactics like slut-shaming, cracking down on alcohol use in the student body, and blaming victims for wearing provocative clothing.

I wish we did not have to socially ostracize sexual predators. These people should not be on the 7C campuses in the first place. If all victims of sexual violence felt comfortable reporting their sexual assaults and college administrations dealt with student rapists effectively, the rapists would be expelled and this opinion piece would be unnecessary.

Unfortunately, there are still sexual predators at the Claremont Colleges. Their presence is the reason that many people in Claremont, especially women interested in men, go through each other’s Tinder matches to check for rapists. It is the reason that survivors of sexual assault are forced to take elaborate steps to avoid their attackers, like changing their class schedules or staying away from certain dining halls. It is the reason why someone took the drastic and misguided step of posting lists of alleged “perpetrators of rape culture” in Pitzer bathrooms. I cannot condone the author(s)' actions, but I understand their outrage.

Rape culture will never end unless we exclude sexual predators from our friend groups. Sometimes, accomplishing this can be socially awkward and uncomfortable. Not even the most dedicated social justice activist wants to be perceived as rude. But if we want to end rape culture, perpetrators of sexual assault must be socially isolated.

Next time you have the opportunity to interact with a rapist, do not take it. Do not invite them to your suite’s pregames or accept their invitations to study for your finals. For too long, victims of sexual assault have felt ignored and marginalized on Claremont’s campuses. It is time that we made sexual predators, not victims, feel unwelcome here.

Kate Dolgenos PO '17 is a politics major from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She wears better shoes than you.

Correction: A previous version of this article reported that five bathrooms were found with unauthorized writing. That is wrong. In fact, it was three bathrooms. 

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