I don’t think it’s any secret that I had some serious beef with The Breeze last year. But lately, Breeze, I’ve been really optimistic about our relationship. Especially after you published a fantastic editorial about empowering sexual violence survivors a few weeks ago.
So when I looked at the front page of your paper this morning and saw this article about yet another sexual assault in the area, I thought it might actually be a good article. How very, very wrong I was.
How many times do feminists, do women, do doctors, do PEOPLE have to reiterate that sexual violence is NO ONE’S FAULT BUT THE PERPETRATOR’S?!?!?!
How many times do feminists need to explain to people that victim blaming is NOT OKAY? That it doesn’t matter what you are wearing, where you are, or how well you know how to punch? It is NEVER someone’s fault that they get raped or sexually assaulted.
Here’s a thought: instead of writing an article encouraging women to take self-defense classes, write an article encouraging people to stop sexually assaulting other people.
Do I sound angry? I’m sorry, maybe it’s because I am. I’m furious that our school paper took an opportunity to do some good reporting, and write about how rape and sexual assault are best prevented by NOT COMMITTING THOSE CRIMES, and turned it into this mess.
I’m furious that you published this quote:
“We’re not living in this safe little bubble. One day something will happen and I would like to be prepared instead of be a victim.”
As a survivor of rape, that little delightful snippet sent me over the edge. Here’s some facts for you:
According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. And those are just the attacks that are reported. Did you know that 54% of rapes go unreported, and 97% of rapists never spend a SINGLE DAY in jail?
Rape and sexual assault don’t just happen in parking garages or back alleys late at night. They happen at parties, at church, at school, in your dorm, in your apartment, in a car, after a date, etc. Do I need to go on?
Look, I realize that maybe you didn’t think this all the way through. I don’t know the writers personally, and I highly doubt that they meant to victim-blame. But this is a constant problem that the media cannot seem to comprehend or fix. When you focus solely on what the potential victim can do to prevent the crime, you (unintentionally) place all of the blame or responsibility on them.
Oh, and here’s an aside to UREC and the JMU Police Department. Do you also teach classes on consent? Do you teach people, men and women, the importance of getting verbal consent from their sexual partners? Because if you don’t (and I’m guessing you don’t), then I’d like to know why you think all of the responsibility for this should be placed on the innocent party? Don’t get me wrong, self-defense is an important skill to have. I’ve attended some great self-defense workshops at JMU, sponsored by the Women and Gender Studies Department. But these workshops also focused on the importance of getting and providing consent. Maybe it’s time you did the same.
Look, I’m not trying to tell you guys how to do your job. In fact, I’d love to extend an open invitation to the writers and editors of the Breeze to meet with me and other writers here at ShoutOut!, to talk about how to write better, even more informative articles about sexual assault and rape, and other issues that we as students and human beings face on this campus. I’m serious. My contact info can be found on our home page.
Just remember this: Because you do represent the student body of JMU, you have the power to make incredible change on our campus. You can be a force for good, fair, coverage. If I learned anything from watching “The Newsroom” this summer, it’s that our news media has the potential to both inspire and incite. Next time, I hope it’s the former.