At the TCNJ SlutWalk on Friday, Sept. 27, students gathered in solidarity to raise awareness about rape culture and rape myths.
In this culture, victim blaming is often accepted. It is a frequently accepted myth that if a woman doesn’t cover her red solo cup at a party or if she walks alone at night and doesn’t invest in a rape whistle or if she dresses like a “slut,” she is asking to be raped. In this culture, it is quite common for the rapist to dodge the blame, because the the rape victim was supposedly putting herself in danger.
An international event, the SlutWalk began in 2011 when a Canadian police officer said women should “avoid dressing like sluts” for their own safety. Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL), along with other student activity co-sponsors, joined the movement and marched around the campus last week.
“There are a lot of myths that surround rape,” said Amanda Parks, senior sociology major and executive chair of WILL. “We want to put the blame back on the perpetrators.”
Marla Jaksch, the featured speaker of the event and a women’s and gender studies professor at the College, explained that our society spreads the message “don’t get raped,” rather than “don’t rape.” This message is regularly emphasized in the media and enforced through misogynistic language.
“The idea that you can protect yourself from rape implies that you messed up,” Jaksch said.
This notion, defined as victim blaming, places fault on the victim of an incident rather than the perpetrator. When men and women are taught how not to get raped, they are simultaneously taught the false idea that if rape occurs, a person did not do enough to prevent or stop it.
“We have to educate about rape culture if it is going to change,” senior early childhood education and math, science, technology double major Carrie Beth Hornberger said.
The sad truths are hard to stomach. Statistically, most rape victims know their attackers. It is far easier to accept that perpetrators are random strangers or glamorized characters we see on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”
“This message applies to your peers,” sophomore English major Jennie Sekanics said.
“Rapists are not monsters,” Jaksch said. “Rapists are people who have done monstrous things.”
Perpetrators reach across the board and hold many professions: college students, coaches, teachers, religious leaders, soldiers, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles, men and women.
“Only 26 percent of rapes are ever reported to the police,” Jaksch said. SlutWalks worldwide endeavor to change the astoundingly low percentage and end the silence.
In the past, members of WILL experienced some trouble planning the event. The College denied their request to host the event during an accepted students day or during alumni events.
“We hope that we just get the message across that this is a positive event,” sophomore philosophy major Nicole Fasano said. “We’re trying to make light of a negative situation.”
After listening to WILL’s presentation and Jaksch’s speech, students walked around the College with a renewed passion for the issue.
“Real men don’t rape,” said senior biology major and Delta Epsilon Psi brother Kunai Chaudhary. “There is no excuse for men to ever think that they can take advantage of women.”