College rape: A response to George Will

Dear Mr. Will,

I read your recent column on the “supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. sexual assault” and am somewhat taken aback by your claim that forcing colleges to take a tougher stand on sexual assault somehow translates into a modern version of The Crucible that replaces witchcraft with rape hysteria.

I was specifically moved to write to you because the rape scenario that you describe somewhat incredulously is not unfamiliar to me. Not because I’ve heard it in many different iterations (I have sadly done many rape kits), but because it was not unlike my own rape. The lead up was slightly different, but I too was raped by someone I knew and did not emerge with any obvious physical evidence that a crime had been committed. I tried to push him away, I said “no!” and “get off!” multiple times,” but he was much stronger and suddenly I found my hands pinned behind my back and a forearm crushing my neck and for a few minutes I found it hard to breathe. I was 22, far from home, scared, and shocked and so at some point I just stopped kicking and let him finish. Sound familiar? For several weeks I didn’t even think about it as a rape because that was easier than admitting the truth. Again, sound familiar?

When a man who is much stronger than you holds you down (“Hey baby don’t fight, you know you want it”) and forces your legs open the violence and power of those movements is horrifically violating and utterly disempowering. You think you screamed NO! at the top of your lungs but you were so scared and so shocked that when you went from yelling no! to pleading no to silently weeping no is hard to remember. Implied violence Mr. Will is a terrifying thing indeed.

You labor under the fear (as some men do) that there is an epidemic of false rape. That good young men will go to jail for consent withdrawn after the fact. And while false accusations likely do happen (the Duke lacrosse case is a recent, well-known example) these are the exception and not the rule and each time a male with a platform spouts off about a false epidemic of rape it only makes it harder for women who have been violated to come forward.

And your confusion about the under reporting statistics? First a woman has to get over her fear of her assailant and the shame imparted by society and then she has to deal with the police. There are no special victims units like you see on television protectively shepherding women through the process of facing assailants. And if fear and shame and being disbelieved by law enforcement were not enough of a deterrent think about having your pubic hair combed for your rapist’s DNA while you are dripping with his ejaculate.

And you have the gall to wonder why some women might not immediately (if ever) report a rape? I am a 47 year-old financially and professionally secure woman in a stable, loving relationship and it took 25 years and your column to get me to speak up about my rape. How easy do you think it is for a scared 20 year-old to call 911 or walk into a police station and say, “I was just raped?”

This weekend I was out dancing and experienced what I think you referred to as “micro-aggressions.” I had my buttocks pinched three times and my breasts groped twice. I was called a “bitch” and a “50-year-hag” when I politely declined hopeful suitors. Whether it is a cat call or a grope these actions represent sexual aggression and Mr. Will they have little to do with sex and everything to do with aggression. I wish someone taught those 40-something-year-old men in college that verbal assaults are not the appropriate response to “no, thank you” and that pinching a women’s behind is not a mating ritual.

There is no woman who I have ever met personally or as an OB/GYN who thinks that surviving a rape confers some sort of privilege. I am genuinely curious if you interviewed a few young women hoping to earn their college rape badge or is that just a conclusion you reached looking at the issue of sexual assault through the myopic lens of misogyny?

Come spend a day in my clinic Mr. Will. Come see how the scars of rape linger even decades later.

There is no survivor privilege, just survivors.

Jennifer Gunter, MD

Jennifer Gunter is an obstetrician-gynecologist and author of The Preemie Primer. She blogs at her self-titled site, Dr. Jen Gunter.

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