Trigger Warning: Discussions about rape
Remember the story about a federal Title IX investigation of CU Boulder's horrific treatment of campus rape? I know it's hard to keep track when there are so many these days . Quick recap: CU Boulder punished a student the school found guilty of comitting rape with a $75 fine, a short suspension, and a reflection paper and subsequently failed to remove him from campus for four weeks after the ruling. The Denver Post reported on that but seems to have decided there wasn't enough victim blaming, so they published an article after a couple of days dedicated solely to enlightening us all to many irrelevant details about the victim's behavior.
The first piece by an intern at the Post, was a little odd in that it was quick to name Gilchriese as the victim although it is not their usual policy, citing that she has chosen to be identified but failing to mention the reason behind her choice, which is that she wanted to raise awareness on the issue to ensure that campus policies are changed so others will be protected from similar horrific experiences. The article also completely failed to mention the not-insignificant detail that the rapist, in direct violation of the college's ruling that he was guilty of raping Gilchriese, approached her several times during the four weeks it took the college to remove him from campus. It did include about a bazillion quotes from CU-Boulder about how they think they are fully compliant with Title IX already. But, whatever, diff'rent strokes. Aside from that, it wasn't that different from other reports. However, two days later, I guess after a couple of sleepless nights of wondering if they had, in fact, cast enough doubt that an extremely prevalent crime with a low rate of false allegations had actually occurred, the editors chose to publish a piece of shit article by the same intern about Sarah Gilchriese.
For reasons unfathomable to normal humans, the Denver Post deems it newsworthy that Gilchriese had been drinking with her assailant whom she had known for a month and was "drunk but not 'blackout drunk'" the night of the assault, that she had several text exchanges with her assailant shortly after the rape, and that she had filed a police report about four months after the assault occurred in February. It appears that the last is most important as the entire piece is misleadingly titled "CU student made police report 4 months after alleged assault occurred". None of it is newsworthy, however, as these are completely fucking normal behaviors of rape victims. The article completely fails to mention that Sarah had taken several steps in dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault; she reported the rape to the college in March, filed a Title IX complaint in May, and obtained a restraining order against the rapist so he would not be able to return to campus after his suspension is lifted while she is still enrolled.
It's not just the content of the piece that's problematic either; the word choice is troubling also. I understand that journalists have to consider liability, but when nearly 2% of your article is a repetition of the word " alleged", I start to think that something else is going on. Particularly in an article about rape where the reporter actually uses the word "rape" a grand total of one time. Especially when the reporter focuses on the behavior of the victim and not that of the rapist. It is victim-blaming rape apologia, the editors should never have approved this piece to be published or assigned such a serious topic to an intern in the first place, and it's fucking inexcusable.
Seriously, there is no reason for a major publication to perpetuate these stupid fucking rape myths anymore or to try to cast doubt on a victim. These days rape is practically a goddamn epidemic, and the pain and trauma it causes has a huge, lasting, and intergenerational negative impact on our entire society.
We really should all know by now that these myths are bullshit. After all, it's been more than a decade since our own government informed us that
- between one quarter and one fifth of women will be raped during their time in college,
- 9 out of 10 victims of college rape know their attackers,
- most rape victims in college do not go to the police because of the many barriers to attaining justice,
- and many rape victims do not identify what they have experienced as rape.
False allegations of rape are not common; they comprise only 2% of reports, the same rate as other violent crimes. We know that rape
- is not a consequence of miscommunication after a few drinks perpetrated by nice guys
- is mostly committed serially by a few antisocial, empathy deficient men who largely go undetected
We know that rapists
- usually premeditate their attacks
- use alcohol as a tool to commit rape
- afterwards claim mixed signals and drunkenness to excuse the rape
If still have doubts about the scope of this problem, here is a list of 50 actual facts about rape.
We also know that acceptance of rape myths leads to higher rape proclivity. In other words, if you perpetuate these bullshit lies and attitudes about rape and rape victims, you are not only re-traumatizing the victims and making it much more difficult for them to recover, you are also promoting and propping up rape. You are normalizing and trivializing rape, and you are sending a clear message to rapists and potential rapists that it is ok to rape because, hey, she was asking for it, and even if she wasn't, no one is going to believe her anyway. You are aiding rapists by helping them to stay invisible and ensuring that others will not take victims seriously. Denying the major scope of the problem of rape in this country or pretending that it's the victims' fault is absolutely indefensible. It puts you in bad company on the completely wrong side of things , it hurts a lot of people, and it benefits absolutely no one who isn't a rapist.
If you would like to share your thoughts about blaming victims of sexual assault and the editorial choices at the Denver Post, you can contact you can contact editor Gregory Moore at 303-954-1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or the author of these articles, CU intern Adrian D. Garcia, at 303-954-1729, email@example.com, or twitter/ adriandgarcia.