By Laura Carr ’17
What is sexual assault? And what is rape?
The water surrounding these terms seems a little murky to me. While sexual assault cases do come to the public eye frequently, the frequency at which these cases surface barely covers the amount of cases that go unreported.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, and in approximately two out of every three assaults, the victim knows the assaulter.
When I read into this, one question comes to mind: Why do so many people choose to keep their stories to themselves?
I’m only one person, but I think I have an answer to that. There is the ever-present fear of victim-shaming. I think that this fear causes victims to question if they were actually assaulted.
When most people think of “rape,” they think “vaginal intercourse” not, as the dictionary defines it, “unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.”
It is difficult to determine what “consent” means. I debated this with a friend after a phone call with Eric Rosenberg, the Granville-based lawyer who has gained a reputation for defending the accused in sexual assault cases. I came to the conclusion that “consent” means many things, but the lines are not actually as thin as they may seem when alcohol is a factor.
If someone is incapacitated in any way, they are not legally able to provide consent. It is important to be aware that even kissing someone could be considered sexual misconduct.
During our debate, my friend and I decided that sexual assault is open to interpretation. If somebody victim-shames you into second guessing yourself, you should remember that it is your truth. If you were emotionally scarred, don’t let a friend sway you into thinking that you are being overly dramatic. You aren’t. And that person is not a friend.
I thought I’d mention that coming forward is difficult. There are many people that choose to remain silent, and that is okay. There is a horrible culture that forces victims into silence, and it is important to know that there are outlets where everything stays confidential.
A classmate that I spoke to recently stressed the importance of “safe spaces.” As of now, Denison does not have designated spaces, but there are SHARE Advocates who are mandatory non-reporters. The Bandersnatch’s new Story Slam series provides a place where people can tell their stories. There are also counselors at Whisler.
Denison’s Community Sexual Misconduct Awareness and Response Team has a document online that details what the campus considers sexual assault and misconduct. Sexual misconduct is any form of inappropriate and non-consensual touching.
Sexual assault is listed as “attempted or actual rape; anal, vaginal or oral intercourse without consent, penetration of an orifice with the penis, finger or other object, and unwanted touching or groping.”
Among other things, CSMART lists initiating sexual activity with a person who is unable to provide consent due to alcohol, drugs or other conditions as instances that fall under the term “sexual assault.”
I want to stress how important it is for you to know yourself and to stick to your story. Pretending like nothing happened may only cause further emotional damage down the road.