Imagine a scantily dressed woman alone in a dark alley. She is at the wrong place at the wrong time. There she is beaten, raped and left to die.
The above is a stereotypical presentation of sexual assault.
And the discussion that scenario generated during the commercials of a “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (SVU) episode screened Monday night in New Residence Hall asked how exactly the media adheres to such a stereotype of a rape crime.
The “SVU” episode and discussion event was part of the campaign to promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month at the College. With the event. the offices of Anti-Violence Initiatives and Community Engaged Learning sought to challenge common assumptions about sexual assault.
In most rape portrayals, the victim is a white, middle class female. But in the “SVU” episode, the victim was a black immigrant. The episode also showed different women with different backgrounds who had been raped.
Most importantly, the episode showed students the traumatic effect of rape. By the end of the episode, the rapist turned out to be a random male suspect.
In reality, like on college campuses, most victims know their rapists.
The episode took an unexpected turn when the brother of one rape victim attacked the District Attorney defending his sister. He was outraged that his sister was open about the attack and that the world now knew she was not a virgin. For the family’s Bosnian background, it was a disgrace.
Sophomore English major Trista Altstadt raised a point about rape affecting a woman’s purity in some cultures. “The idea of honor is inscribed on a woman’s body,” she said. “And if he kills (her) then (the family) gets the honor back.”
The comment brought about a new discussion on the view of a woman who has been raped. Organizers pointed out that women are sometimes blamed for the rape. Because of this social climate, Jackie Deitch-Stackhouse, coordinator of the office of Anti-Violence Initiatives, said the sad truth is that many victims have their credibility questioned.
“If a woman were to report rape, she needs at least three or four male witnesses that saw the penetration for her to be believed,” Deitch-Stackhouse said.
Questionnaire sheets were passed out at the end of the event to see if the event changed attendees’ presumptions about sexual assault, Jason Anari, event organizer and sophomore biology major, said.
According to Anari, some students were shocked when they got certain questions wrong – they were sure they knew the facts about sexual assault.
“Making more people aware of the seriousness and the prominence of the issue will lower figures,” Kari Osmond, freshman women’s and gender studies major, said.