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UVa culture does not make men rapists

As I read the Rolling Stone article, I grew simultaneously incredulous and nauseous. I was beyond disturbed to hear of such horrifying incidents occurring at this place that I have come to love so dearly. I think that the article will prove a good thing for U.Va., first and foremost because the rape that took place at Phi Psi needs to be exposed. We must open a dialogue about changes that need to happen in order to keep U.Va. the place that it should be.

I do not agree with everything written in the article or the way it portrayed our school. I think it is absurd that the men accused of multiple sexual misconducts were not expelled. However, the administration’s role in these situations is much more complicated than the article suggests. If Jackie did not wish to file a claim against the men who raped her, Dean Eramo was not in a position to do so for her. If Eramo had gone against Jackie’s wishes, it would likely have resulted in other victims of sexual assault being less inclined to come forward when recovering from similar experiences. That being said, perhaps Dean Eramo should have more vehemently encouraged Jackie to press charges. We would need a lot more information about the situation to be able to discern whether Dean Eramo was in the wrong with her decision. But there is one thing that certainly does not fall into grey area, and that is the utter despicability of the act described in the article, and those who committed it.

The article suggests that to some degree, the culture of U.Va. social life played a role in pushing those boys to rape Jackie that night, and this is the part of the article with which I find the most fault. These boys did not arrive at U.Va. and become molded into gang rapists, nor did they arrive at U.Va. and think to themselves, “People party here a lot, and that gives me the sense that gang rape is acceptable.” What the article fails to highlight is that what happened to Jackie was not a group of misguided boys acting in accordance with college norms; it was an act of uncommon evil. To engage in a gang rape requires some personality or mental deficiency that I can confidently say the vast majority of U.Va. students do not possess. “Drew” committed a heinous act and felt no remorse. That level of monstrosity is not the result of a couple years in the college environment. Implying this detracts from the magnitude of the horror with which this event, and its perpetrators, should be viewed.

I recognize that rape is a huge problem on college campuses. Though drinking and partying are undoubtedly contributing factors, I find it hard to pinpoint the college environment as the direct cause of rape and other forms of sexual assault. That being said, I don’t think that the power to solve the problem lies with University administrators. This true problem, in my eyes, is that men are inclined toward sexual assault in the first place.

I want U.Va. — and every other college campus — to be a place where men do not sexually assault women because they do not want to, not just because they fear the ramifications. We need to think seriously about what causes men to commit rape and sexual assault. I believe the problem begins long before the college years, with subliminal messages that are latent in society and popular culture: that women are, first and foremost, objects meant for men’s sexual enjoyment. Parents, teachers, coaches, and other role models must teach both boys and girls from a young age the importance of healthy male-female relationships. Celebrity figures such as Dan Bilzerian, who make it seem “cool” to brutally objectify women, need to be condemned by popular culture and removed from the limelight.

Men and women are not the same, and never will be, but we need to learn to accept that different doesn’t mean one is dominant over the other. Children need to grow up with strong role models of both genders, and with examples of men who treat women with respect. The fact that women do not feel comfortable coming forward after being sexually assaulted because they fear the social ramifications of being “the girl who cried rape” is an incredibly disheartening indicator of the state of our society. We need to work to change the way men view women long before the college years if this situation is ever going to truly improve.

Kacey Hirtle

CLAS '15