Guerrilla Feminism Founder Takes On Victim-Blaming Campus Police in Madison
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.
“I don’t know of any college campuses whose administration or police puts the onus on men”
If what their police said is anything to go by, the University of Georgia puts at least some onus on men (I never heard what they told the women). The police had us sit through a long lecture of “what young men get into trouble for at college” back in the early 90’s. It included a section on rape and what to never do along with common stories suspects tell them. I considered it obvious and thought anyone who needed to hear this was obviously too stupid to understand it, but I have since learned these courses do lower reported campus rapes.
I do not know how well UGA administration or police handle rape complaints. The university PD apparently charged young men every year, though.
Interesting; I’ll look into it.
If you want any more specific information, PM me over Facebook.
Would it be ‘victim blaming’ to say that “…consumption of rohypnol will quickly make you an easy target.”?
Alcohol is deliberately used as a date rape drug. High school and college age women may lack any experience to warn them of dangerous levels of consumption. Women who are being ‘plied’ (pried?) with alcohol may be actively prevented from knowing what they are drinking—Michael Shermer anyone?
And; as Lisak has documented, rapist predators routinely ‘groom’ their victims. Women who demonstrate a special vulnerability to alcohol may be targeted for future assaults. ‘Blacking out’ is a symptom of alcoholism, indeed it is usually considered an ADVANCED symptom. Normal drinkers will pass out, or vomit, without reaching the stage where memory formation is blocked.
Don’t let resistance to victim blaming be a cover for rationalizing dangerous levels of alcohol consumption. It helps endanger women on TWO fronts.
The problem is not whether alcohol is a potentially dangerous drug––I’d guess just about all Skepchick readers understand that. The problem is that the burden of responsibility falls completely on victims rather than perpetrators. The message is not, “Be careful not to drink too much; you may be in danger of violating someone’s boundaries. Make sure you have affirmative, continuous consent if you engage in sexual activity after drinking.” The message is never, “Be careful not to drink too much; you may not be able to recognize harassing behavior in your friends or the people around you in time to report it.” Instead we are told, “Drinking will make it easy for rapists to rape you, so don’t do it.” That’s victim blaming.
And then when sexual assaults do occur, victims have internalized the message that if they were drinking at all, it was their fault. Yet if I have a couple of beers and leave the bar to find that my car was broken into, I can still call the cops without worrying that they’ll dismiss the whole thing because I’d been drinking.
Thank you for educating ‘John The Drunkard’, Julia. You’re nice than I could have been.
And isn’t this shit offensive to MEN? To assume that when women go out in public to drink and if they *gasp* get drunk, the men around them are so awful they are going to start raping any moment now?
You’re missing the point, and I thought I was using short words and everything. Alcohol is quite toxic to anyone in enough quantity.
Men who groom and ply potential victims with booze are DOUBLY culpable.
‘Don’t drink and drive’ is basic advice, which a significant number of people are absolutely unable to follow. ‘Don’t accept mystery drinks at frat parties from people you don’t know.’ Is advice that CAN be followed. The fact that the mystery drink is laden with extra alcohol instead of the Big Scary Date Rape Drug doesn’t make it less of a threat.
No, I’m not missing the point.
So you’re saying that women are “fully culpable” if the man is “doubly culpable”? Or are women only “half culpable”?
For getting raped.
Culpablefor getting raped.?!?!?!?!?!
You’re not even TRYING to victim blame, to be honest.
Women aren’t cars to be driven.
This is nearly intelligible.
You’re not even trying NOT to victim blame, I mean, although I’m pretty sure that’s obvious since you literally just said that women are culpable for getting raped if they get drunk at a party (frat or otherwise, does it make a fucking difference?).
You said that.
It’s in black and fucking white.
And wait a second, you’re saying that people CAN”T follow the advice “don’t drink and drive” BUT women *can* follow the advice not to drink and party?! How is this shit even comparable? This is a shitty analogy.
Women dare to go out and drink at a party and expect not to get raped for merely existing at a party while drinking.
People make the choice to drink and drive and harm or kill people.
NOT THE SAME FUCKING THING.
“Don’t let resistance to victim blaming be a cover for rationalizing dangerous levels of alcohol consumption. It helps endanger women on TWO fronts.”
What about “dangerous levels of alcohol consumption” for MEN? And how fucked up is it that when you think about a drunk woman in public, you IMMEDIATELY think she’s at risk for *GETTING RAPED*? But you’re not trying to “reasonably warn” any men about maybe keeping their dicks in their pants (or getting raped themselves, or into a fight, or accidentally slipping on a wet floor and breaking their head open).
No, it’s just us women who “must be careful” when we’re out in public doing things you, a man, do without even a second thought. We must reign in our behavior and make sure not to get “too drunk” (whatever that means).
Is your next suggestion to just not drink at all? Stay in instead of going out? Never leave the house?
Eh, the last paragraph is offensive. I’m really glad go is taking intersectionality to heart but was there a really a reason to write poor black and disabled? I understand the intent but it makes the mistake of associating being black with adversities. I wrote this because a Co worker of mine came upon this article and said “why are we always used as the example of poverty”. Think more critically when you speak about race white people.
When I see a drunk woman in public my first thought is NOT that ‘she’s in danger of being raped.’ I just hope she isn’t driving. It is women isolated at parties, or in the apartments of rapists, who are being ‘got drunk’ deliberately.
Obviously, the victim blaming language is utterly pernicious. But right along with it comes the alcohol exoneration language. It is still considered ‘normal’ for Americans to have their initial sexual experiences while partially incapacitated with alcohol. Almost every Jezebel snip about ‘victim blaming’ includes some glib promotion of binge drinking.
Citation, please. I was sober my first time.
Yes John, it is okay to do something that is legal without your motives or judgement being questioned should you fall victim to a crime.
Drunk drivers are not victims to their crime, that is where you awful analogy falls apart.
Would anyone question why you were drinking if you got mugged? Would they say you should have known better? Would they even doubt that a crime occurred? No?
Exactly, stop make women responsible for being victims, it’s sickening.
Great article. I think that one reason why we don’t see much effort to address men is because there’s this misconception that rapists are evil, criminal types, not normal people. And so there’s no point telling them not to rape, since they’ll do it anyway.
Of course, this is wrong, but I think it’s a foundational falsehood in victim blaming.
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