Content warning: This guest column has non-graphic references to sexual assault.
A rape apologist is someone who defends a perpetrator accused of the assault. Victim blaming is when the victim of a sexual assault is held responsible for the actions committed by the rapist.
Our University Police seems to encourage victim blaming and by extension is unwittingly defending perpetrators of sexual assault.
On Monday, everyone within the UF student body received the same email from the UF Office of Clery Act Compliance. A sexual assault report had been filed and UF Public Safety made the entire community aware of the threat.
However, that is not just what they did. Rather than addressing the perpetrator at all, the email focused on the statistics of rape on college campuses, ways women should protect themselves and how to aclimate to a college life where 1 in 4 of the women you know will be sexually assaulted in their time here at UF.
Anger boils in my veins as I reread the message. Each time, I find it astonishing to watch UPD, the Clery Act Compliance Office and the university itself, blame women for their assaults.
It seems that as a university, taking rape and its connection to fraternity men or on-campus assaults seriously, is not a priority.
It is not the job of a woman to not get raped. It is not the job of a woman to fix rape culture and the way our campus encourages it.
The email could have focused on the perpetrator and the fact that fraternity houses are often settings of rape. What safety measures or changes can UF make to stop men from raping? What message can they promote that would address men and rapist tendencies, rather than women and how they must change their lives to feel safe.
I am tired of victim-survivors being blamed for their attack.
I feel the eyes of readers rolling in their heads as they skim this piece written by a woman who is angry with the language the police department used in an email many only glanced at.
What does language have to do with sexual assault? Everything.
Rape culture is one of many social pandemics our country turns a blind eye to and the ignorance of our own UPD is not excluded. Rape culture involves the way we as a society discuss sexual assault, victim-survivors and the lack of conversation around perpetrators.
What she was wearing, if they were dating and if she “didn’t say no” are all excuses that rape apologists use. What they really mean is “I don’t think what happened is as serious as rape.”
This conversation and use of language encourages men to feel they have the right to sexually assault others.
I am asking the Clery Act Compliance Office, UPD and UF to stop using language that places a spotlight on the ways women should bend and twist their lives to stay away from the rape that occurs on your campus – the campus you run, you enforce.
This is not just an “incident.” This is a rape. This is, unfortunately, one of many on UF’s campus, similar to every university across the nation.
To be quite honest, the language used by this department would not encourage me to report to UPD if I was sexually assaulted.
I think the university would want us to believe that in regard to rape, its main goal is for victim-survivors to feel comfortable coming forward without blame and for rapists to be held accountable.
Unfortunately, I find that really hard to believe.
Olivia deMontmorency is a journalism and women's studies junior.