Letter to the editor: Response to “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”

Sarahbeth Caplin

This letter is in response to the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event. While I applaud the intent behind this march, I don’t think it does nearly enough to accomplish its purpose: to educate men and women about the reality of rape.

The number of rapes and sexual assaults that take place go beyond not carefully watching one’s drink at a party, or not using the “buddy system.” The epidemic of rape and assault, particularly on college campuses, is a symptom of a larger problem: the way society tolerates and at times promotes a mentality known as rape culture.

Consider how many times we’ve heard expressions about “scoring,” “getting laid tonight,” or comparing women to pieces of meat in romantic comedies and popular song lyrics. Then consider the following statistics: In a survey conducted by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, one in 12 male students surveyed had committed acts that met the legal definitions of rape or attempted rape. Eighty-four percent of those men who committed rape claimed that what they did was definitely not rape (http://www.aaets.org/arts/art13.htm).

What does this say about the way society looks at rape and other forms of assault? It begins with the attitude that it’s perfectly okay to be treated as a commodity or a prize. It also reinforces the idea that using coercive tactics to get women to say the magic “yes” is somehow less of a big deal than being dragged by a stranger into a dark alley.

Educators spend more time telling women how not to get raped, than explaining what enthusiastic consent looks like.

As someone who experienced sexual assault in a college setting, I feel that there is more that can be done to educate students about the different forms assault can take, how to recognize it, and what can be done to stop it. Events like “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” are just the tip of the iceberg.