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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Rape, sexual assault often overlooked on campus”

The criminal scandal which began with the disappearance of 10,000 issues of the Daily Wildcat on Oct. 8 involved a more serious crime than theft — the shamefully overlooked issue of date rape and sexual assault on campus and in society.

On Oct. 7, in its daily Police Beat feature, the Wildcat published testimony taken by the University of Arizona Police Department from a young woman who asserted that while attending a party at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on Sept. 26, she was deliberately drugged with GHB, the “”date rape drug.””

The next day 10,000 issues of the Wildcat were pilfered from news boxes around campus.

The Wildcat fixed its full attention on searching for the perpetrators, understandably agitated by a sizable intellectual, financial and public service loss, which local police failed to take seriously. Meanwhile, the issue of date rape, which most likely prompted the mass newspaper theft in the first place, did not receive any serious comment whatsoever — not from the UAPD, nor from Phi Kappa Psi, nor from the Wildcat, nor, in the public realm, from anybody else on campus.

Why is the issue of date rape overlooked in our society?

Sexual assault is “”by far the most under-reported violent crime,”” said Zach Nicolazzo, coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Programs in the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership. “”We constantly hear messages that say, ‘no means yes,’ ‘use alcohol to get her drunk first’ or ‘just look at what she was wearing — she was asking for it.’ The rape culture that we live in is incredibly pervasive, and works in insidious ways, sending messages about what it means to be a man and/or woman, which then impacts how we relate to each other and gain consent.””

Nicolazzo’s assertion that we can only guess at the number of sexual assault cases that go unreported is supported by the statistics. UA public health professor Mary Koss’ groundbreaking 1987 survey published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (Vol. 55 No. 2) found that 1 in 4 college women is sexually assaulted.

Koss offers sound moral and practical wisdom about how society ought to address rape. “”Is important to place responsibility where it belongs: the individual perpetrator, the location where the rape was permitted to occur, the peers who undoubtedly know and are therefore tacitly complicit, and the society-wide rape-supportive environment that creates a climate that minimizes, trivializes and fails to deter sexual assault on college campuses. Victims will not feel free to speak out until we as a community cease stigmatizing them,”” she noted.

But our culture, savagely accepting rape to the extent that it does, is not without its counter-currents, especially on campus. Near Eastern Studies senior Malia Uhatafe of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona’s Women’s Resource Center says the group, a feminist activist space in the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, works hard to raise the issue of sexual assault on campus with events such as the annual “”Take Back the Night.””

At the community space Dry River Radical Resource Center, located at the southeast corner of University Boulevard and Main Street, a collective member who goes by the name Turbo helped create a community workshop called “”Simone’s Consensual”” to creatively engage issues of sexual consent. “”The idea,”” Turbo said, “”was to host an event during which, for the first 15 minutes of each hour, people would perform spoken word pieces — poetry, rapping, free-styling, ranting, whatever — around issues relating to sexual consent. Then, for the next 45 minutes, people would break up into small conversational groups. Our goal was to use art, performance and peer-based discussion to raise everyone’s awareness about sexual consent, including our own, and to do so in a way that people would find fulfilling, engaging — even entertaining.””

Nicoloazzo said that combating sexual assault in our society certainly shouldn’t be just one more burden to place on women; men have a large part to play in countering sexual violence. Men Against Violence, a campus group Nicolazzo helped found, was involved in the planning and implementation of “”Take Back the Night”” last year.

Nicolazzo quoted feminist writer and scholar bell hooks: “”After hundreds of years of anti-racist struggles, more than ever before non-white people are currently calling attention to the primary role white people must play in anti-racist struggle. The same is true of the struggle to eradicate sexism — men have a primary role to play.”” Nicolazzo couldn’t agree more, he said. Men need to recognize that, while most men do not sexually assault others, men as a group do perpetuate most of the violence against women and other men that occurs in our society.

The longer we devalue the danger of sexual violence and our acceptance of it in society, and while we keep overlooking it as a dreadfully real, serious and inescapable evil, it will continue to thrive and corrupt us all.

— Gabriel Matthew Schivone is a junior majoring in art, literature and media studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

 

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