Don’t We Know this Rapist?

Mom, don’t we know this rapist? was the gist of my daughter’s message. The article she sent discussed a lawsuit involving a colleague of mine. A young academic and movement leader, he had helped my older daughter pursue a potential publishing avenue for her undergraduate thesis on femicide. Reading the article made me incredibly sad. He was such a likeable guy.

But the claimant had been hospitalized after the rape. And the lawsuit pointed to a pattern of sexual predation. Even though I knew him as a sweet social justice organizer, apparently my colleague had “hunted undergraduates,” engaging in inappropriate relationships with them. My sadness morphed into anger. If he didn’t care about his students, didn’t he at least care about his career?

My daughter’s response: “He probably didn’t think he had anything to worry about. That’s rape culture. Nobody believes the survivor. Nobody cares.”

Horrible but true. When it comes to the men we know and care about, we don’t want to see the violence that entitlement produces; we only want to see the nice young man we once worked with, or the mentor, the football star, the pastor, the neighborhood hero. But to remain silent when rape happens is to contribute to rape culture. If survivors of sexual assault can find the courage to speak the truth, so can the rest of us.

For an in-depth understanding of what transpires when rape survivors pursue justice in university or criminal justice systems, read Jon Krakauer’s Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town (Anchor Books, 2016)

For articles on this particular law suit, see:

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