"In that situation, I did everything right.”
The slight tremble in Mary Kate’s voice vanishes as she becomes confident.
“Yes, I got drunk with my friends. I got a person that I knew — who was sober — to drive us. I stayed with my girlfriends. I made sure I had people who knew me and cared about me … ”
The tremble returns. “And it still happened.”
Mary Kate had been out with girlfriends at a fraternity party. They decided to head home, and she asked a friend from high school, a sober driver for a fraternity, if he would take them. He obliged.
Mary Kate, her friend and the driver’s roommate hopped into his car. They passed Jennings Hall, where she lived, but he said he would pass it again on his way home. He would drop her off then.
They dropped her friend off. Then the driver’s roommate. She found that odd.
At Jennings Hall, he parked. She felt sick, tried to gather herself before stepping out. He turned the car off and climbed into the back seat. Before she could open the door, he was pulling her from the passenger seat over the center console into the back. He began undressing her against verbal and physical protests.
At the end, she told me, “I was just lying there like a dead fish, thinking I had to get out of the car.” He raped her.
Mary Kate escaped the vehicle that night by inching her hand toward the door and sliding from the car naked. She crawled across a parking lot without pants or underwear, one shoe on and one in a car she would never see again. Those were her favorite shoes.
After our interview, I kept coming back to her preface: “I did everything right.” What did that mean?
Could she have done something wrong? Could she have acted in a way that would have forfeited her right to her body?
The answer is a flat no, but excerpts from my conversations with sexual assault survivors at UF would make you think otherwise. Descriptions of dress and drunkenness litter my notes. “I was wearing running shorts and a T-shirt,” one girl wrote to me. “I drank a lot that night, and I don’t think I ate dinner either,” said another.
These descriptors provide irrelevant context and reflect a sad consensus among women that they, in some small way, can be complicit in their rape.
We cannot point the finger exclusively at UF Greek organizations for this tendency, but they throw away a golden opportunity to undo this habituation when they focus their efforts more intently on teaching women to avoid assault than on teaching men not to commit it.
This gendered analysis is justified: A survey administered to UF students in 2014 revealed one in five female undergraduates has experienced sexual assault since entering college, compared to one in 20 men. Sorority-affiliated women are assaulted at four times the rate of their non-sorority peers, and of the 10 women I interviewed, nine were raped by fraternity men from at least eight different fraternities.
UF — and in turn, the Interfraternity Council — has an obligation to focus explicitly on fraternity men, to educate them thoroughly about the necessity of asking for consent and about the legal consequences of failing to do so.
Men from seven different UF fraternities told me their chapters received no sexual assault education beyond an initiation module and one to two generalized risk management presentations per year. For comparison, an anonymous member of Pi Beta Phi Sorority told me she received so many sexual assault-specific educationals with her sorority, she could host a seminar herself.
We should teach women about sexual assault prevention, but this imbalance teaches women something more: It’s their responsibility to prevent it.
“You can’t tell a victim how not to be a victim,” Mary Kate said. “You have to tell perpetrators to not commit crimes.”
UF, are you listening?
Champe Barton is a UF economics and psychology senior. His column appears on Fridays.