Invisible Men

by Julian Sarkar | 11/22/10 11:00pm

Bashing men on the issue of sexual assault became a persistent theme at Dartmouth this Fall term. A song attacking fraternity members as soul-stealing rapists was sent out to campus ("Out of Control," Oct. 4), and received open support from several students. The grave nature of such attacks even put Dartmouth men such as Tom Mandel '11 ("I am a Dartmouth Frat Bro," Oct. 6) in a position of needing to defend themselves against crimes they have never committed. "I am not a rapist, nor do I work to create a safe haven for sexual violence,'" Mandel stated in the first lines of his column.

This predisposition toward men particularly affiliated men is one that affects us all. By perpetuating the belief that sexual assault is committed almost exclusively by fraternity brothers, we have failed to address the issue when the scope of the problem is actually much broader and more complicated. Many of the discussions this term reveal that sexual assault continues to be a serious issue at Dartmouth. The discussions thus far, however, have almost exclusively referred to instances where the victim is female; openly discussing sexual assault against men is usually rejected with laughter.

I asked several male victims of sexual assault if they were willing to be interviewed about the matter. The two students who agreed both wished to remain anonymous. One told me his story from his freshman year. A student he knew approached him and began speaking with him. Not long after the conversation began, she reached into his underwear and grabbed his genitals. The student I interviewed resisted and told the female student that he felt uncomfortable with the act until she finally desisted.

I asked him if he thought that perhaps sexual assault was socially acceptable at Dartmouth if the perpetrator was female. He didn't hesitate to respond, "Well yeah, of course."

The other student was asked by an acquaintance to join her as a pong partner one night. But it was a conditional invitation the female student wanted him to drink for the both of them, saying she did not want to drink any more that night. The student I interviewed was extremely intoxicated at the end of the game. After the game, the female student asked the student to walk her back to her dormitory, to which he agreed.

The remainder of his night is hazy, he said, but he remembers trying to find a way to get out of the situation and then waking up in the female student's shorts the next morning. As he put on his clothes to leave, the female student was already texting her friends about her accomplishment.

Most victims prefer not to even speak of the offenses committed upon them, for fear of mockery and loss of personal reputation. And as long as we continue to address sexual assault as an issue exclusive to fraternity brothers, these victims will continue to be silenced.

Perpetrators of sexual assault actually come in all shapes, forms and affiliations (or unaffiliations). By scapegoating fraternity brothers on this campus, we have protected those who aren't fraternity brothers and have committed such offenses extending to them the benefit of the doubt that only a "frat bro" would do such a thing.

By shedding our predispositions to believe that only fraternity brothers commit acts of sexual assault, we can begin to understand the issue as it actually occurs that the perpetrators and victims are not exclusive to any certain demographic. It is only once we understand these issues are not gender-specific that victims regardless of their assaulters' gender or affiliation can openly begin to participate in frank discussions on sexual assault.