Rapist Culture On College Campuses
by Blaire Sharpe
In light of the recent “Freshman Daughter Drop Off” back-to-school banners displayed by Old Dominion University’s Sigma Nu fraternity, Blaire Sharpe, a mental health counselor who specializes in working with victims of domestic and sexual assault (as well as a domestic violence and sexual abuse victim herself), has written a ready-to-run article about rape culture and the early warning signs of future rapists.
Recently, I heard a story about a group of middle-school boys, walking down the street in my hometown when they came upon a female classmate. The boys circled the girl and one of the boys began to chant “Gang Rape! Gang Rape!” The other boys chimed in. I have no idea how long the girl endured the situation before it was halted. She was not physically harmed. My understanding is the boys were punished through the school system with a brief suspension.
This event happened just weeks after a story broke about a 19-year old female college student who was gang raped on a beach, in broad daylight, during spring break in Panama City, Florida. Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen said the attack was the “most disgusting, sickening thing” he had seen and that, “Within 10 feet from where this (was) happening there (were) hundreds of people standing there watching, looking, seeing, hearing what (was) going on, and yet our culture and our society and our young people have got to the point where obviously this is acceptable.” He also said this was not the first time this had happened on his beach, or the second, or even the third. Responding in equal measure to the severity of the situation, the Bay County Commission and the Panama City Beach Council passed an ordinance that prohibits the consumption of alcohol on sandy beaches between March 1 and April 18, essentially shutting down spring break as we know it.
Imagine the feelings of the 19-year old woman who was watching an online video of the beach where she’d spent spring break, recognized her tattoo, and realized she was the woman being raped. She had no conscious memory as she had likely been drugged at the time. Crowds of people stood by watching and did nothing to help her.
Now, imagine the middle school girl in the center of the group of boys chanting “Gang rape!” fully conscious and painfully aware, perhaps for the very first time in her life, of just how trapped and vulnerable she was.
Lastly, imagine what the middle school boys were thinking and feeling. I hope at least some of those boys were experiencing feelings of guilt and shame, but nonetheless, they allowed themselves to be swept up in the momentum of the group – or at the very least, were not motivated to stop what was happening. Twelve boys. One girl. This is where it begins. The seed is planted. The seed of a rapist. Male = predator. Female = prey.
A recent article titled, “Who is the Campus Rapist?” sites a study published by the JAMA Pediatric Journal which found that 10.8 percent of 1600 young college men studied had committed rape by the time they graduated. This may sound like a staggering statistic to some people, but to me, it rings true. Those middle school boys will, in just a few years time, become young college men, at the beach during spring break, armed with alcohol and testosterone. Someone will be the leader. The rest will watch. They may even cheer on the leader. But all of them will be responsible. All of them will be rapists.
About the Author
Blaire Sharpe holds masters degrees in business and mental health counseling. She specializes in working with adults suffering from mood disorders and survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Blaire currently lives in a suburb of Detroit with her husband, three children and two dogs. You may learn more about her book at blairesharpe.com.
Editor’s note: Need help?
To learn more about Take Back the Night and how you can help prevent sexual violence, visit here.
In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated byRAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.