As anyone with a working University email address already knows, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) recently sent out an email detailing two separates rapes that occurred near Autzen Stadium and Chase Village. The tentatively-worded email states that
“Police have learned from second and third hand sources that there may have been three separate rapes within a five-day period near Chase Village and Autzen Stadium, beginning Thursday, June 28. No female victims have come forward or wish to file a report, so the information is unverified…
In one incident on June 29, a woman was walking alone around 10 p.m. on the bike path near Autzen Stadium when she was raped by a man with a knife. The suspect is described as a black male, 6′ tall, 200 pounds, with muscular build, and shaved head.
A second-hand report EPD has received is that two additional female victims have been raped on unknown dates, but within the same week, also in the same general area. One of these two incidents involved a similar suspect: black male, 6′ tall, 200 pounds, with muscular build, and shaved head.”
Besides being a horrifying and disturbing event, the incidents described in the email also point out the relative ineffectiveness of DPS and the overbearing presence of a “rape culture” around the UO. These are big claims to make, but stick with me here.
Based on the amount of “Campus Crime Alerts” I receive in my inbox on a weekly basis, it’s fairly clear that DPS is unable to “provid[e] a safe, secure, and welcoming environment.” While the emergency call boxes that litter campus are a great idea, it’s DPS’ inability to do anything other than dole out prevention tips and “Campus Crime Alerts” that really calls their authority into question. Not to mention the subtle fostering of a rape culture, where women are seen as “victims” rather than “survivors” and are perceived as “asking for it” because of their clothing or body language.
Just look at the passive voice in the first description: “A woman was walking alone around 10 p.m. on the bike path near Autzen Stadium when she was raped by a man with a knife.” Not “a man raped her” or “a man assaulted her”: she was raped. While this may seem like a minor syntactical kvetch, this kind of passive voice fails to accurately highlight the criminal nature of the act. You wouldn’t say “A store was robbed by an escaped convict.” You would say “An escaped convict robbed a store.” Instead, the attacker is placed in the background, and thus escapes scrutiny.
But it’s not all bad. The groups listed at the bottom of the email — Womenspace, SASS, the White Bird Clinic, the Counseling Center, SafeRide, and SWAT — are all excellent resources for survivors. Yet this doesn’t seem to be enough to change the prevalence of the University’s rape culture. There are many places that foster this kind of misogyny, undercutting the excellent work done by the aforementioned groups. Greek Life is an especially obvious target for such criticism, but you can find signs of rape culture anywhere. From the shouted “bitches” and “whores” within Taylor’s to the intense consumption of pornography, this mindset is everywhere around Eugene.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love porn. But all these factors have combined together to create a strangely patriarchal cocktail, one that views women as objects to be seized or sold. Women don’t deserve to be treated that way. And before the snarky comments come pouring in, remember that this isn’t about some bullshit in Washington D.C. or a genocide in some faraway country. This happens to people you know and love every day: your friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and even your family.
Rape is wrong no matter what your political beliefs. The failures of the University and DPS only stand as a testament to the kind of incompetence our school is slowly (and sadly) becoming known for.