Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault, general feminist rants.
Sometimes I get a bit serious here at The Paige-Turner. Tends to happen when you’re in a major like mine; Gender and Women’s Studies. Most people scoff when they hear the title. “Gender and Women’s Studies? Wouldn’t you need a whole lifetime to study and understand women? Haha!” (This is literally word for word something a man has said to me. To my face).
For one of my classes this week we analyzed the incredible documentary The Hunting Ground (which, unfortunately, features my campus). The films focus is on interviewing and spreading the word about the unfairness of sexual assault that occurs on college campuses and the lack of support survivors receive from their institutions.
I was genuinely shocked by how much the film affected me. Full disclosure; while I’m not a survivor of sexual assault myself, I know many girls who have come forward in my classes and discussed very bravely and openly their experiences with sexual assault and rape on my campus. It’s disgusting, it’s terrifying, and it’s sad. Above all, it is truly sad.
There are a lot of different ways that one can discuss this subject, and it’s a heavy one that not many people are comfortable with, but I say too bad to that. It’s too bad that these survivors stories make you uncomfortable, because this is a prevalent issue that needs to be talked about, especially in a society that normalizes assault so much.
Before I came to college I was doing a lot of light hearted contemporary romance reading. All that light and fluffy high school stuff that I still like, even today. Then, somehow I fell down this hole of incredibly dark New Adult romance stuff that I began to realize focused heavily on rape or issues of consent, with either a savior figure being prevalent or the image of the innocent virgin. I never really questioned why this was such a huge topic for this audience.
After being in college for 3 years (and fast approaching my last two quarters) I’m finally understanding why this topic is written about so much for NA and how it tends to dip too far into causing rape to be a normalized issue. It’s because this issue is so real in every day life! Duh (insert image of me smacking myself on the forehead here)!
But are NA books causing this behavior to become normalized or is it opening an avenue for discussion? Are girls (and possibly boys) reading these books and accepting these circumstances at face value? Are they seeing the underlying message that over 100,000 women will be raped or sexually assaulted every year on college campuses? That one in four girls will experience some sort of harassment? That their institutions will do next to nothing to help them in order to keep their funding, despite this violating federal laws such as Title 9?
Is this post meant to scare girls into fearing every single man they meet at a college party? No. There are some really amazing and genuine people out there. Assaulters are actually a minority of people, but it’s so, SO, important to always be aware and not just aware of yourself; of your friends, people who aren’t your friends. There is no reason for you to not stop something from happening or get individuals to help out if someone seems distressed. It’s tough. I know. But this sort of behavior cannot persist over time. It’s gone on long enough.
TLDR: The Hunting Ground is an amazing documentary that you should watch, whether you’re in college, out of college, or are going to be college in the fall. Stand up for your fellow brothers and sisters and really consider the books you’re reading. Are they doing more harm than first meets the eye?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and have a discussion! I stand as an ally for survivors and thusly, will not tolerate any sort of discriminatory or indecent remarks in my comments section. This is a safe space.