ellenopinions“Does rape even happen at Concordia?”

This question has come up in more than one conversation throughout my three years on campus. So many of us seem to be under the impression that rape is only rampant on large university campuses. We assume that it would never happen here. We’re living in the Concordia bubble, after all.

Well, it’s time to burst that bubble. The answer is yes. Rape happens on our campus. According to Concordia’s 2015 Campus Public Safety Annual Report, in 2014 there were three rapes reported on campus, one sodomy offense and one case of fondling. While these numbers may seem small, keep in mind that this does not include those who chose not to file a formal report. Realistically, the number of sexual assault cases at Concordia is probably much higher — especially when you consider the fact that only about 30 percent of sexual assault cases are reported to the authorities, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The assumption that rape doesn’t happen at Concordia, or that it’s not that bad, is not only untrue, it also undermines the victims. This is our main problem. For a lot of schools, the faculty and administration present a large issue. Many schools try to sweep sexual assault cases under the rug so that enrollment won’t go down. I don’t see that as a huge concern on our campus. Rather, I see a problem in the way students make assumptions about sexual assault, and I see an even bigger problem in the way our courts treat these cases.

According to The New York Times, 1 in 3 women have been the victim of rape, stalking, beating
or a combination of assaults. One would think that such a frequently occurring problem would kick-start a conversation about the issue that has affected so many people — yet, rapists continue to walk free or serve very little time for a downright heinous crime.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network revealed that out of 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators walk free. This means that 994 out of 1,000 rapists get to go home, crack open a beer, watch television, hang out with friends and think about which person he or she should prey upon next. Out of 1,000 rapists, 994 face no consequences for taking advantage of another human being — a human being who will live with post-traumatic consequences for life. Meanwhile, thousands of people are spending years behind bars for minor drug  offenses. Like I said, there is a problem within our criminal justice system. If you don’t agree yet, just wait.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Daniel Drill-Mellum, the University of Minnesota fraternity member who raped two fellow students in 2014. He was recently sentenced to six years in prison. While six years may seem like an eternity to us, it’s actually a pretty pathetic sentence when one considers the damage he has caused. As it turns out, Drill-Mellum has assaulted more than just two women. In her statement in court, one of the victims, Abby, explained that a handful of other victims (at least 10) contacted her during the course of the trial proceedings to say that he had done the same thing to them.

And get this — he was known for assaulting women. In court, Abby testified that she hadn’t known Drill-Mellum before the rape — that she had been introduced that day by a mutual friend. This mutual friend let Abby go off alone with Drill-Mellum, knowing that it was a dangerous situation. This is exactly the problem. A lot of the time, we don’t see rapists as rapists. We see them as classmates, friends, teammates. When someone we know does something questionable, we tend to give him or her the benefit of the doubt.

This mindset isn’t just a tendency of college students, it’s the tendency of our country to make excuses for rapists. We ask victims, how much did you have to drink? Were you drunk? What were you wearing? We ask as if it could be the victim’s fault — as if a “yes” to any of these questions could indicate that the rape wasn’t “really” rape.

But there isn’t good rape and bad rape. There isn’t rape that’s only “sort of” rape. Rape is rape. Whether you’re drunk or sober, whether you’re wearing short shorts and a crop top or a burqa, you have a right to your body. You have a right to justice. The fact that rapists can get off the hook this easily is absolutely disgusting. The fact that serial rapists are free to rape again and again and again; the fact that we often don’t even see them as rapists; the fact that they are free to make their victims feel unsafe and un-free, is absolutely disgusting.

Chances are, you know someone who has been sexually assaulted. Chances are, you walk past someone who has been the victim of sexual assault every day. Chances are, you might be that victim.

Think about that. I hope that by the time I have my own children, this epidemic has curtailed. Because that’s what this is — an epidemic. And until we decide to acknowledge that rape happens, even at Concordia — until we decide to acknowledge that rape is rape no matter the circumstance — it will continue to be this way.

Ellen Rethwisch

Ellen is a senior English-writing major and business minor at Concordia. In addition to writing for the Concordian, Ellen serves as an assistant captain for the Concordia women's hockey team as well as Vice President for Sigma Tau Delta. She hopes to pursue a career in writing and editing.

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