In her Jan. 16 column “Is ‘stranger rape’ more troubling than ‘date rape’?” Froma Harrop seemingly assumed every rape is the same, with the only difference between date and stranger rape being whether the survivor knew his/her attacker. Every rape is different. Every survivor has their own story.
Survivors cannot be split into two categories of those who didn’t know their rapist and those who did, because each individual survivor faces a different battle every day after their rape.
Harrop also wrote: “This discussion clearly makes a distinction between victims who took precautions and those who didn’t.” With one sentence this piece places the blame of every date, acquaintance or spousal rape on the survivor. With one sentence she furthers the culture of silence amongst survivors by stating their stories are not valid. With one sentence she reminded every survivor of their worst fear: perhaps they could have done something to stop their attack – perhaps this was their fault.
Eighty percent of rapes are committed by someone the survivor knows. That statistic paints a picture Harrop refused to see: We live in a society that fosters date rape. We live in a culture where people write articles like this one suggesting that women should be more careful, should always be on alert in case of the inevitable attack and should accept the responsibility for our rape.
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Let’s end with clarity. There is a larger picture Harrop refused to see. It features a society that supports and furthers rape culture, but it also features individuals who refuse to be silent. We will fight until the day where thinking like this author has is no longer the norm, but the exception.
Hannah Petersen and Emma Johnson
Hannah Petersen is a sexual assault advocate at UNC-Chapel Hill. The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the article.