A Concern for Everyone

by Lavinia Weizel | 11/25/03 6:00am

To the Editor:

In response to Jay Banerjee's Nov. 24 letter to the editor, Mr. Banerjee called attention to signs that have been recently posted around campus publicizing several statistics about sexual assault. While shocking to some, Mr. Banerjee expressed "bemusement." He asks the question, "Who are these 'Concerned Students' attempting to educate?" The answer is everyone.

Of course these Concerned Dartmouth Students are intelligent enough to realize that a black and white poster campaign is not going to prevent rapists from raping people. What the posters are attempting to highlight is that we need to focus not so much on what women can do to keep themselves safe, but what we can all do to transform a culture in which 43 percent of college-aged men admit to using coercive force to obtain sex and don't even call their actions rape.

Mr. Banerjee goes on to argue that the campaign should not "blame everyone with a Y chromosome." Certainly not everyone who has a Y chromosome is a rapist. However if we are attempting to shed some light on the actual source of the problem of sexual assault we unfortunately cannot ignore the fact that in 97 percent of reported sexual assaults the perpetrator is a man. This does not mean that the problem is all men. The problem is our own behavior and our attitudes towards sex and women that allow a culture where rape happens so frequently to continue to exist.

Mr. Banerjee's next suggestion that "Drinking 20 Beers Probably isn't in Your Best Interest," is a reasonable one (for everyone, in fact, whether 5'5" or 6'5," 120 pounds or 220 pounds). The reality, however, is that even if no one ever drank, sexual assault would happen. We live on a campus where women are raped while asleep in their own beds. Men who rape women, who plan ahead to commit their crimes, will commit them no matter what.

Of course many people would have more sympathy for someone who is hit by a car while walking on the sidewalk as opposed to down the middle of the street, assuming they were hit by accident, but even if I were lying in the middle of the street in a miniskirt in a pool of my own vomit, if a man in a car saw me, slammed on the gas, and purposely ran me over he would be a murderer. The problem is not women walking in the middle of the street, nor is it "everyone with a Y chromosome." The problem is those men who get into their cars and cruise around until they find someone to run over.

Women at Dartmouth should not have to change their daily behaviors to avoid assault. All of us should have to change our attitudes and behaviors to dismantle the culture which allows men to rape women in any condition, sober or not.