TW: Sexual assault
Lachrista Greco, founder of the organization Guerrilla Feminism, experienced rape culture firsthand when she was sexually assaulted on the UW-Madison campus in her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, ten years ago. When she caught the UW-Madison campus police spreading victim-blaming “advice” in the form of a public service announcement this week, she took matters into her own hands, drawing attention to the post’s “don’t-get-raped” approach and putting the UW-Madison police in the national spotlight.
In a blog post responding to the announcement, which was originally titled “Shedding the Victim Persona: Staying Safe On Campus” (the word “persona” alone, as Jezebel’s Jia Tolentino noted, is problematic enough––but the rest of the language will make you flip a table), Greco pointed out a Rape Apologist Bingo card’s worth of problematic statements, from “police can’t be everywhere” to “overconsumption of alcohol will quickly make you an easy target.”
I asked Greco to explain her work with GF and share her own experiences with rape culture.
Are you comfortable talking about the rape you experienced on campus? If so, when was that, and what are some of the factors that weighed into your decision not to report?
I actually went to Edgewood College, the small private liberal arts, faux-Catholic (because it’s not recognized by the Pope) college down the street from the UW Campus.
In the summer of 2004 (before attending Edgewood that fall), I was dating a man who went to UW. He was 24 and I was 18. He would consistently ply me with alcohol (he may have spiked what he would give me––I’m not sure). I don’t remember much from that time, except flashbacks of waking up in his twin-sized bed to him removing my clothing, touching me, and then raping me as I went in and out of consciousness. I lost my virginity this way.
I initially had a very hard time calling this “rape” because it was not the stranger-in-the-bush scenario that I was taught in school (and through media) growing up. My rapist was someone I knew (very well). Someone I trusted. I didn’t report the rape, because of my inability to call what happened to me “rape” as well as knowing full well that I would most likely be blamed, since I was drunk when it happened (and it happened more than once).
I wasn’t able to name this as “rape” until I was dating a very kind man a couple of years later. I began having flashbacks to the rape when I was intimate with my boyfriend at the time. I talked to friends, I went to a therapist. I finally was able to name what happened to me.
To what extent do you see rape culture on college campuses to be tied into “party school” (Playboy ranks UW–Madison the #2 party school in the country) and sports culture?
Rape culture seems extremely tied to “party school” and sports culture. I think many men grow up learning that they are owed whatever they want from women (and society as a whole). I had a man threaten me at a club in Chicago once because I didn’t want to dance with him. Patriarchy enforces the notion that men are to “do” and women are to “be done.”
It’s very sad that in 2014, we’re still talking having to explain this. Do I think every man who drinks or enjoys sports culture is a rapist? Of course not. But I do think that our drinking culture and our sports culture allows for men to feel safe, but not women.
Have you known people who have reported sexual assault? Without speaking too specifically on their behalf, what kind of response do they generally find?
Yes, I do. I know people who have had good experiences, but mostly I know people who have had heinous and truly scarring experiences with reporting their assaults. Typically, the responses they get are questions about what they were doing at the time, what they were wearing at the time––other victim-blaming bullshit. For this reason, most rapes go unreported.
Do you know of any college campuses whose administration or police puts the responsibility of preventing rape on men, in their paperwork or their laws? What would that look like?
Ha. I literally said that out loud (which is sad). No, I don’t know of any college campuses whose administration or police puts the onus on men.
Here’s the thing: rape can happen to anyone by anyone. The rapist is not always male-identified (though, statistically speaking, it [usually] is). I think college campuses need to implement programming that is a requirement for all students (new, old, etc). I think a Rape Culture 101 class should be a requirement. It should be a foundation course that all are required to take. It’s so prevalent, but it’s still swept under the rug.
I get the sense from most administrations that they are so uncomfortable talking about rape themselves that there’s no way they would effectively speak about it to their students. But if they can’t, then they should invite people who can to teach or speak on it. Policies need to be put in place that don’t allow the perpetrator to come back to school if the victim/survivor is still attending. Being a rapist is practically awarded in our society. “You rape someone? Oh, you still get to keep your scholarship! You rape someone? Oh, you still get to play on that football team!”
How does fighting rape culture fit into your goals for Guerrilla Feminism? Can you talk about some of the things GF does?
GF is a global feminist network of people committed to intersectionality (the interconnectedness of racism, classism, sexism, sizeism, ableism, etc). We currently have 30 branches all over the world.
When we critique and analyze rape culture, we look at it from an intersectional perspective, meaning that we look at all facets of the scenario or situation, and we acknowledge and support that a person who is, for example, black, poor, and disabled will have a very different experience than someone who is white, middle-class, and able-bodied. It’s important to look at the interconnectedness of oppressions that so many face. GF does this daily.