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Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven On January 8th of 2012, a fourteen-year-old girl asked a friend
to come over for a slumber party. The two have been friends
since early childhood, even though they were separated
by a grade in school, and they started out the evening
drinking and watching a scary movie. And she had been texting
an older boy named Matt, who was the senior quarterback
on the football team. Like any other freshman, she felt a lot of pressure
to fit in with these older boys. And so when he asked her
if the girls would come over and hang out, she was ecstatic. He came and picked them up, asking them to get out of the car
before they reached the front door and climb through a basement window. Now, when the girls got inside,
they discovered four other senior boys, all of who encouraged them to drink vodka out of a cup specifically
labeled for them. Now, she wasn’t experienced with alcohol, but she trusted these older boys
that she had known from school. And so as they continued
to hand her drinks, the world eventually went black. Less than an hour later,
the boys had taken the girls home. Her friend made it inside,
but she was unresponsive. And so five senior boys
left a fourteen-year-old girl lying on the ground
in below freezing temperatures, where her hair froze to the ground. In the morning, she crawled up
to the front door, where her mother
found her bruised and sick, and she drew her a bath
to warm her up. But that was when she noticed
her daughter was red and inflamed underneath her clothes. And so she rushed her to the hospital, where her fourteen-year-old child
would undergo a rape kit. And when the results came back,
their worst fears had been confirmed. Years later, that young girl
would find out that her thirteen-year-old friend had been
raped in the room right next door. But the horror wasn’t over
for this young woman. She faced an entire community of people who turned her worst nightmare
into a hashtag, claiming that she “was asking for it.” The county dropped the charges, saying that there was no evidence
of a sex crime here, even though there was a video of her rape
circulating the halls of her school. And that was until the hacking group
Anonymous got the state involved. But even after a long
and treacherous trial, her rapist were only sentenced
to four months in prison, to be served only on weekends. And that was then reduced
to two years probation, in which he had to pay
an 1,800 dollar fine and say that he was sorry
for what he had done. He is not a registered sex offender, and he never spent a day behind bars. In the US, only 6% of all reported rapes
will end in a prison sentence. When combined with a relatively low
amount of reporting, this means that 99% of rapists
get away with their crimes. Now, there are two reasons
that might contribute to this. First, rape is an incredibly
personal crime and thus is very difficult to prove. Eight out of every 10 rapes
occur between people who knew each other before that event. Scholars call this “acquaintance rape.” And so contrary to what
most people believe, most rapes don’t happen in a dark alley
or in a bad part of town. No, most rapes happen between friends, between family members, co-workers, boyfriends or girlfriends. Most rapes happen behind closed doors, which makes them incredibly difficult
to prove in a court of law. The second factor that might contribute
to these low conviction rates is the social narratives surrounding rape
in the United States. Scholar call this the theory
of secondary victimization, which contends that for many victims, being exposed to victim-blaming attitudes
will be akin to a second rape. Victims are in a space
of extreme vulnerability immediately following an attack. Not only has their body been violated, but their autonomy, their humanity,
their sense of identity have too. Rape is one of the only crimes in which a victim’s body is used
as a weapon against them, and this alone is enough
to inflict severe psychological harm. That’s why for many victims, secondary victimization
will then lead to self-blame, sexual revictimization,
promiscuity of low self-esteem. The word “rape” may seem
unapproachable after an attack, and they might cover up
or hide the crimes against them, or even defend their rapists when challenged
by family members or friends. Research by Mary Koss shows
that victims of acquaintance rape are far less likely
than victims of stranger rape to define the event as such. And so the process of grasping
an attack so brutal and so personal is difficult enough that when victim-blaming attitudes
are added to this mix, it only gets that much harder. One in four college women
in the United States will be raped during their time on campus. One in four. Studies show that college students
endorse common rape myths at unprecedented rates. And so when challenged with doubt
or uncertainty about a sexual assault, these make it much easier
to blame the victim and excuse the actions of the perpetrator. They perpetuate myths that infiltrate
the minds of our young people and then lead to higher levels
of sexual assault in the future. For example, the belief that false rape
accusations are a common problem is particularly harmful to victims, especially when considering that the National Sexual Violence
Resource Center reports that only 2 to 8% of all reported rapes
are actually found to be false, whereas 68% of all rapes
will never be reported and only 6% of those that are
will end in a prison sentence. So the prevalence of rape outweighs the prevalence
of false accusations astronomically. And yet millions of people
still question victims instead of even considering
the possibility that these accusations are true. On November 5th of 2012, an eighteen-year-old man competed
in the collegiate debate tournament. At the beginning of the year, his coach had assigned the team captain,
Hannah, to be his partner. She flirted from the very beginning,
expressing clear sexual interest in him, but he politely told her
that he wasn’t interested. And eventually,
as her flirting progressed, he asked the coach
to reassign the partnerships, only to be told “no.” Now, at this particular tournament, they had prepared
a presentation on sexual assault because they were aware that many member of the debate community
will often go to parties after a day of competition. And his team was very close, and so men and women would often
spend time in one hotel room after a long day of competing. But he wasn’t partaking in any of these
social activities this night. He was alone in a hotel room, sleeping off a splitting migraine
that had left him incapacitated. He suffered from a medical condition
that often left him unable to move because of severe migraines. His roommates had left the door cracked, and so after about an hour of sleep, he felt someone crawl
into the bed next to him. He was hazy and confused
as she rubbed up against him. He quietly begged her to leave, but she kept saying, over and over,
that sex cures headaches and then it would be “our little secret.” She raped him. He begged her to stop. He remembers thinking
that he should try to physically stop her, but he was afraid that he’d get
in trouble for hurting a woman. And eventually, she got
disinterested and left the room. The next morning, he awoke to jokes and rumors
spread throughout the team like wildfire. She had bragged
to another member of the team that she had “convinced him” to hook up. He never told the truth
about what happened that night. She is not a registered sex offender, and she never spent a day in prison. For male victims, the social paradigm surrounding rape
brings unique challenges. The first and most common myth
that they must face is that males can’t be
the victims of rape. But this is not true. Millions of boys and men
have been the victims of rape. The National Sexual Violence
Resource Center reports that 1 in 71 American men
will be raped during their lifetime. And these numbers jump to alarming heights
when considering a college education, as 1 in 16 men on campus
will be sexually victimized. Sexual orientation can also
greatly increase this risk, as bisexual and gay men are at a 50%
higher risk than heterosexual men to be the victims of sexual
violence other than rape. So while the statistics
on male rape are so very clear, male victims often experience
even more skepticism and indifference than female victims. But victims are not the only actors
in male-rape scenarios that people find unbelievable. The notion that rapists
are generally sexually frustrated men is particularly harmful because it makes implications
about the nature of the crime. So despite significant evidence that states that rape is a crime
about power and control, many people still choose to believe
that it’s motivated by sexual impulse. It also makes implications
that women can’t rape men, or that women never perpetuate
sexual violence. But this is not true either. We have undereducated our young men about what to do
in situations of sexual assault, and they thus cannot often validate
their experiences after one. Likewise, social expectations of men often change
their connection to this crime because men are often expected to conform
to hypermasculine stereotypes and dominate women. And men are also expected
never to raise a hand to a woman, leaving them in an awkward position
of defenselessness when attacked by a female rapist. On April 4th of 2015, an eighteen-year-old girl met up
with a boy that she had been dating. Now, the two had a year’s long history
of relationships and breakups, but she always thought that, in the end, they were supposed to get married
and settle down together. She left her car at his workplace
and rode with him back to his home. Now, this was like any other night, but she felt uneasy about it, still. She couldn’t place
why she might feel this way, but something just wasn’t right. She’d been contemplating
whether to end this relationship for good. She wasn’t sure if it’s
what she wanted anymore. And so after a couple of hours, when she still couldn’t shake
this bad feeling, she told him very plainly
that she did not want to see him anymore. He began kissing her,
ignoring her request. He was persistent. She became afraid,
and he seemed confused as to why. But when she realized that this encounter
was not going to stop, she became paralyzed with fear. She was careful not to move. She counted her breaths. But when the physical pain
became unbearable, she snapped into action, beginning to kick her legs
and flail her arms until he jumped backwards,
letting her loose, and she ran into the bathroom
and locked the door. After a long shower, she returned back to that very room, and they didn’t talk
about what had happened. But she didn’t want
to cause a scene or make him angry by asking him to take her home. And so she laid beside him
for the rest of the night, pretending to sleep. The next morning, he acted
as everything was fine between them, and he held her hand in the car. But that night, she told him
she needed some space and time to process what had happened, and she asked him not contact her anymore. A few days later, she awoke
to a text message from him, asking if he could get
something off his chest. His message said, “Do you think that I raped you?” She would never forget that. This young woman never
reported her crime. She never told his parents or his friends. They had hundreds of people in common, and their lives were
inextricably intertwined, and she feared ruining
his pristine reputation. She feared that because of it,
no one would believe her. He is not a registered sex offender, and he never suffered
any consequences for his crime. That girl was me. Telling a crowd of strangers about my most vulnerable
and terrifying experience is incredibly difficult. I grappled with whether to tell it at all. I thought about what
he would say if he heard it, and I worried about what would happen now that this heavy secret
between us is out. But secrets weigh you down. April 4th of 2015
is not the end of my story. My story is one of turning
victimhood into survival. Few words can describe
the feelings of shame and betrayal that I felt that night, and few words can describe the shock of discovering that a man I loved
valued his power over me so much more than my own humanity. That April 4th of 2015
is not the end of my story. I will not feel shame, and I will not allow him to continue to perpetuate
violence in my life by keeping me silent and still. I tell you this story not because I want
your sympathy or your praise. I tell because it’s likely
that 1 in 4 of the women and 1 in 16 of the men
that I encounter on an everyday basis are the victims of rape. I tell you because it’s likely
that every one of you sees the manifestations of this culture
every day in your lives. The research shows that it’s possible
to construct a society in which rape is so discouraged that even potential rapists
would never act out in sexual violence. A common modern-day example of this
is the Minangkabau society, of Indonesia. Here, women are inherently valued, not for their sexual purpose,
but for their contribution to society, and male sexual prowess and violence
are not deemed manly, because their concept of masculinity
is not tied to sex at all. We live in what scholars would call
a rape-prone society, in which the culture of violence
against women is so embedded in us that we forget it’s even there. We have misinformed our young men
about the definition of consent, and we have defined sexuality
in terms of power and obligation. But we must unlearn
these behaviors together because the reality is that
you sit in class every single day with rape victims, and you probably
sit in class with rapists too. Rapists are not born rapists. They are constructed
by sociocultural attitudes that shape their identity
and motivate their violence. Talking about sexual assault
is incredibly uncomfortable, but that’s precisely
why we must do just that. So if you are a victim of sexual assault,
tell your story proudly, and if you’re not, use your voice
to help those who are. Because I firmly believe
that our vulnerability is our voice, that our stories fuel our strength, that our pain does not define us and that our common experiences
will bind strangers together with an unbreakable force. And with our stories,
not in spite of them, we will be stronger than ever before. Together, we can cure our society
of this sickness that plagues us, and we will be free. Thank you. (Applause)

Jean Kelley

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