To say the email from Public Safety, regarding recent sexual assaults on campus, falls short of appropriately addressing the severity of the situation on campus is an understatement. The rhetoric of the recent statement employs language that is ignorant and dismissive.
The part of the email most enraging is the language used to describe rape. The term “non-consensual sexual intercourse” dances around the word rape and invalidates the severity of the crime, and thus the experience of the victims. “Non-consensual sexual intercourse” serves no purpose other than to soften the blow of the situation.
Rape victims have been subject not only to physical, life threatening trauma, but mental repercussions that permeate for the rest of their lives. Now is not the time for fluffy words to try to minimize the severity. This contemptuous rhetoric renders the experiences of victims invalid.
Walking around the point like this does nothing to protect or advocate for victims, whom the email later says the University is “committed to supporting.” Instead, it has the undertone that students should not be overly concerned with the seriousness of the event. The danger in messaging like this is that it does not make other victims feel like they would be supported in similar situation and that it would not be taken seriously enough to be called what it is: rape.
Furthermore, the tone of the email essentially gave off the message that victims should watch out and take precautions so as to not be raped as opposed to telling assailants not to rape. This puts the responsibility of preventing rape on campus in the hands of the students themselves.
Villanova professor Dr. Jill McCorkel further solidified this interpretation. “If you're not careful, they'll describe your rape as "nonconsensual sexual intercourse," define it as "sexual misconduct," and imply you might have brought it on yourself. Happy women's history month” McCorkel tweeted this morning.
The victim-blaming undertone of the University’s statement completely contradicts its supposed commitment to providing ample resources and support for victims. It brings into question the level of trust we, as students, should put into the Administration to protect us.
Yes, “rape” is a frightening word, but this is a grave situation and should be addressed as such. For a University that perpetually preaches virtues like honesty and advocacy, this is about as ignorant and dismissive as it gets. If the University truly believes in fostering truth in all areas of our lives, they need to model it.
As a community we need to do our part to continue to advocate for the rights and respect of victims, as well as commit to looking out for each other and curating an environment on campus that is intolerant of sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Resource Center: 484-343-6028
Villanova Title IX Coordinator, Ms. Ryan Rost: 610-519-8805
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673