Victims of rape should speak out, support each other

Last semester I was pleased to learn that Kent State was forming a support group for survivors of sexual assault. I felt exceptionally encouraged that there would be a place for me among students that could relate to my ongoing nightmare. However, to both the university’s and my dismay, the group was unable to commence due to the small number of students interested: two. Bummer. Big bummer.

This news disappointed and terrified me; I knew there were dozens of victims walking around campus concealing a secret or locking up a traumatic memory. I knew that rape happened everywhere, even on Kent State’s campus, yet nobody desired to talk about it. Do people ever want to talk about it? Rarely. I believe that a victim’s silence is every college’s best kept secret; the victim remains quiet, and the campus image remains safe.

Reality colors a much darker image. According to a report written by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2000, for every 1,000 coeds, there are 35 incidents of rape during the academic year. A campus with 6,000 coeds will have an average of one rape a day every day for the entire school year.  Over the course of five calendar years (the national average for a college career), 20 to 25 percent may be raped. How do rapists get away with it? Unfortunately, only 1 in 20 campus assaults are ever reported. Campus rape is an unspoken, epidemic crime without consequence.

Ever since I opened my mouth about my acquaintance rape that occurred three years ago, I discovered the power of my own voice. Each time I expose my painful past, I step further and further away from it. Finally, I see that there is an end to this internal conflict.

Last week I wrote a poem about it for my creative writing class; I anxiously awaited my peers’ critique. The comments I received confirmed the research done by the U.S. Department of Justice. Out of 18 students in my class, three of us had been raped. This was no coincidence — it was a reflection of the hundreds of bottled-up secrets walking this campus every day. Yet, the university could not find enough women for a support group.

As a community, we must stop ignoring the perfectly concealed reality that exists on this campus. We never hear of students being expelled for rape, yet it is occurring all of the time. Let us demand justice for our students because nobody rapes just once.

I wonder, is silence a result of shame? Do victims see themselves as the one to blame? Is that part of the rapists’ plan? If these statistics are true, why do universities put the issue on the back burner? You would assume that with so many assaults occurring on campus, there would be more light shined upon prevention, right? Wrong. Instead students are left in the dark. Either the administration is turning a blind eye, or victims are hiding in shame.

No victim should ever feel shame for another’s criminal act. Instead, she should seek justice through the courts and Judicial Affairs. Kent State is not alone in blame — this occurs at most universities in this country. Instead of accepting authority’s typical course of action, we must take it upon ourselves to educate ourselves on the masked truth that I was once blinded by.

He was too cute to rape, I believed, just like the other dozen did.

Stacy Bogart is a junior communication studies major at Kent State and a guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.