The conversation about rape on college campuses. It is unsettling to ever talk about any tragedy. But rape is the sort of tragedy that is undoubtedly a tragedy, yet is common in the university setting. It is horrible and terrifying for something so tragic to be what a quarter of all college-going women experience.
A couple months ago, Rolling Stone published a major story about a rape that occurred at University of Virginia (weird unrelated fact: at the time I was in the process of applying for graduate school at UVA). I feel like the story, and it’s aftermath, has fully run its course, which is why I’m writing about the subject now: I don’t want the story to die. Especially because of the way that story ended… with Rolling Stone apologizing for it, explaining that the woman, Jackie, who claimed she had been raped, was not credible, and the rape may not have happened at all.
When I first saw that story and that there would be more national discourse about the issue of college rape, I was grateful. The issue is so serious, so tragic, and so frequent that it needs to be addressed often, and hearing dramatic examples like in the article help to shake us into action. But I was and still am heartbroken to learn that the story may have been exaggerated, or even completely made-up.
So often our society has ignored talking about this tragic and serious issue by demeaning it with this phrase: “Women who say they got raped are just trying to get attention!” That’s almost never actually the case. Until now, for a story that happened to make national headlines. With such a big story now being called false, I worry that the discourse will end and the naysayers will say “Told you so!”
It would be, frankly, unintelligent to assume that all women who claim to have been raped are liars just seeking attention. This story is just one example of a time when a woman was not entirely truthful. We must take rape seriously, we must collectively acknowledge how terrible it is, and we must work towards finding new methods to prevent rape from occurring and provide help to victims.
I don’t care that one big story turned out to be inaccurate. The reality is that many other women have stories, ones that haven’t made headlines, and those women are ignored and discriminated against, and their perpetrators unpunished.
It’s a shame that the term “rape culture” exists. It’s scary, the concept that rape has its own “community.” We need to keep talking about rape culture in the university setting, and figure out how to eliminate it. One in four women is too many. One is too many.