Don’t shame, educate

Mike Michalski

Not even one week after student senate elections, one senator has already resigned due to provocative comments regarding the existence of rape culture. The former senator – in multiple posts on social media – claimed that rape culture does not exist. Their actions caused a wide backlash, and eventually prompted their resignation.

This should not be the end of the discussion. Now more than ever Grand Valley State University students need to have an open conversation regarding sexual assault, its prevalence, its impact on society and what we can do to reduce and eventually eliminate the number of cases as a whole. We cannot have that conversation if we are only going to engage in shaming the individuals on social media who are perpetuating lies and stereotypes regarding rape culture. We need to face this argument head on.

College should be a time when we explore ourselves, our identities, and new ideas. I argue that trying to cut out every sensitive or triggering conversation makes campus intellect weaker. We as a community will grow stronger by presenting logical counter arguments to these opinions that differ from the mainstream. We do not advance our own ideas by solely shaming those who hold differing or outdated opinions.

The ideas expressed by this individual represent a number of people on campus and outside of GVSU’s community – after all, this person was elected by their own peers. That is why now, more than ever, we need to present valid arguments for the existence of rape culture, and work together to find viable solutions.

Rape culture is a result of normalized attitudes regarding gender roles and sexuality. Behaviors include not recognizing rape as a serious crime, ignoring widespread cases of rape, and blaming the victims instead of the perpetrators. In a 2015 study of 80,000 college students done by the American Association of Universities, 26 percent of women reported forced sexual contact on college campuses. This is not just an issue for women – 7 percent of men experienced similar actions.

Outside of the national statistics, you can see the impact of rape culture in actions here on campus. Street lights were added on 48th avenue, and police patrols increased at the beginning of the school year when sexual assault is more likely to occur. This culture does indeed exist, and it impacts the decisions our administrators are making.

I’ll end with this: some would argue that by debating we are giving this reprehensible opinion a larger voice. However, we are not going to convince this segment of the population that rape culture exists by just trying to make them go viral in the hopes of either ruining their career plans in the future or just trying to publicly shame them in this moment. These are real people, with their convictions held strong. We can only change their minds and make them part of the solution by opening an honest dialog with them.

I urge all of my fellow students to think twice when they get ready to share a post that just makes fun of this representative’s ill informed views. We’re all here to learn, and we can learn a lot by presenting facts and statistics, not rhetoric and shame.