The Problem of Pretending
Issue   |   Tue, 04/15/2014 - 23:59

The sexual violence that occurs on this campus is not incongruent to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, sexual abuse and rape are universal problems. Last year’s dialogue and the continuation of the discussion surrounding sexual violence have increased resources on campus. The recognition that we must end victim-shaming to create a safer environment for any man or woman who has been attacked is paramount. Progress certainly has been made in this regard. There is, however, another facet that must be explored: pretending one’s own inability to rape.

Classifying oneself as someone who could never commit such a terrible crime is an attempt to create two classes of citizens: those who could and those who could not rape another. When someone does violate another, they are certainly reclassified as criminals and are therefore separated from the rest of society. However, their actions, not their inner-being, separate them from society.

Nothing makes a rapist a rapist other than his or her specific actions. The identification of a “rapist” does not exist prior to specific actions — each perpetrator is unique and has no distinct quality that diagnosis him/her as a rapist. The only thing that deems a human an attacker is his or her actions.

Feigned self-superiority is a community problem because it comes from an attempt to detach oneself from potential perpetrators. Those who could commit sexual violence are thus separated from the rest of society when, in reality, all humans are capable of violence. All men and women can rape another. This sad truth is unsettling. As a man, for me to say “I could never rape anyone” is not only untrue but also unproductive.

The Christian doctrine presented in John to love thy neighbor applies here. While one might commit violence against another human (man or woman), his mistake does not deny him the community of love.

Despite his crime, he is still human and still equal to other humans. Excluding this man from the community of love creates the view of differing capabilities. Those who occupy the community of love believe they cannot commit violence because they reside in a different space than the criminals who have. This separation is extremely dangerous because it creates a kind of complacency.

The statement “I could never rape another” relaxes us. This statement takes the individual out of the equation, and he or she no longer resides in a community with rapists and can ignore them. If they do not occupy our world, they do not deserve any attention. We overlook our own capabilities, which allows for the obvious next step: ignoring rape as a communal problem.

The logic is as follows: “I am not (and could never be) the problem, so why should I care?” To create a safer community of informed bystanders, we have to understand our own capabilities. Because we are all capable, there must be something that deters some of us from harming another.

Each student should attempt to identify the inhibition within him/herself. If each individual deterrent is not identified, then the possibility to assault another may become a reality.

The White Ribbon Campaign asks each student to do just this. The White Ribbon Pledge, readapted to fit Amherst, is as follows: “I pledge to not commit, condone or stand silent about sexual violence and misconduct.” This pledge asks each of us to understand that we can all violate another. Once we comprehend our abilities, we can then begin to stop them.

You might be thinking that this column condones rape. You might think that I am claiming that sexual violence is a natural human tendency and is therefore okay. Nowhere in this article do I further that claim. Sexual assault is the most terrible and inhumane crime that one can commit. That every human has the ability to commit this act does not make it acceptable.

We must, however, understand that everyone can commit violence. If we do not understand this simple truth, then the problem of assault resides only in the community of survivors and rapists. Everyone else is believed to “never be able to assault another” and does not need to work to solve the problem. The White Ribbon pledge helps solve this potential problem.

By honestly analyzing your own capabilities, you can begin to identify your internal regulation system. If all humans take this task seriously, we could get one step closer to ending rape and sexual assault.

Again, the pledge is “I pledge to not commit, condone or stand silent about sexual violence and misconduct.” The Sexual Respect Task Force will be inviting students to take this pledge the first week of May. I have taken the pledge. Will you?

Ryan Arnold '15E (not verified) says:
Tue, 04/22/2014 - 22:57

i think this article makes a point that is as discomforting as it is urgently needed, and i think it's made bravely and beautifully. thank you for writing this, judd.

Rowena (not verified) says:
Sat, 11/07/2015 - 09:37

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