Monthly Archives: May 2014

Changing Social Reactions Toward Instances of Sexualized Violence Against Women  

A female Emory Student was raped Tuesday, February 11th at approximately 11:45pm in the wooded area between Dowman Drive and Oxford Road next to Emory Village. Approximately two hours later, there was another report that a girl was sexually assaulted on Fraternity Row. She reported an unknown male Emory Student touching her breasts and genital areas over her clothes, putting his hands in her shirt and touching her breasts, then proceeding to put his hands under her skirt (Full Report).


My first reaction as a female Emory student taking a class on gender violence and committed to issues on justice on gender violence to these reports was “What on earth were these females doing in those locations that late at night, especially an hour or two before Atlanta’s second winter storm of the year?”  When I took a second thought to it, I realized that my reaction was the way society was taught to react—to instantaneously blame the woman.


The notion of blaming the woman is not unique to American society—it is apparent almost everywhere around the world. In Rwanda, blaming the woman was first manifested right before the genocide through the release of the 10 Hutu commandments, which targeted Tutsi women as evil conniving individuals who used their sexuality to rise up the social and financial ladder. Furthermore, during and following the genocide, victims of rape were held accountable for their experiences by their families, and subsequently abandoned. During the Bosnian war, Muslim Bosnian women and children were taken into ‘rape camps’ and following the war, someone of them were condemned by their family and consequently disowned by their husbands or their household (More information on Women Under Siege).


Why are female victims the first to be blamed for something that they most often never ask for? It is because society has enculturated us to behave accordingly. In most societies, a woman is most valuable if she is a virgin. In the US, though the perception of woman has changed widely over the last century, a woman is still looked down upon based on her sexual promiscuity. It’s fascinating how though feminist movements have succeeded closing some of the gap of gender inequality when it comes to social and financial strata, society still has been unable to close the gap of sexuality—it is considered normal for a man to sleep around a lot yet it is a complete veto for a woman to do the same.


Of course, even the mention of a woman’s sexuality is ingrained in our minds as a taboo by society. However, to achieve true equality, feminists should opt to focus on it. They have indeed taken huge steps in this movement already advanced in it—victims are no longer keeping their traumatic experiences to themselves and are now reporting their cases, as illustrated with the cases above. Women, whether victims, or bystanders, are beginning to condemn, subtle or blatant acts that are evidently a violation to a woman.


Now, the next step in the feminist movement should be to break the norm of subconsciously blaming the female victim.Women—whether western, African or East European—can unfortunately be among the greatest critics of female sexuality. We are quick to judge the victim on why she was at wrong place at the wrong time, or on how her demeanor or her way of dressing led to her experience. The general safety tips concerning sexualized violence are always aimed toward women—tips such as never walking alone, avoiding poorly lit areas, walking with a partner of group after dark etc. It is time that we, as feminists, stop limiting our dialogue concerning safety precautions to our own circles, but to the entire community especially when it comes to sexualized violence—that is men, and most importantly, the bystander.

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Rape in Wartimes vs. Rape on Campus–Are They Comparable? 

It was once assumed that rape was committed as a result of sexual desire. Recent scholarship however shows that rape has a greater significance—it is used as a weapon of war. Though the international recognition of systematic sexualized violence against women during wartime as a crime against humanity has been a great advancement in the feminist movement, people should also focus on the rape during the peacetime, for example on campuses. What differences are there in the motives of rape in wartimes in comparison to rapes on everyday college campuses? It is important to highlight the functions of rape specifically in wartime before indulging its similarities with cases on college campuses.


Perpetrators in wartime use rape to humiliate the enemy. For example, during the Rwandan Genocide, the raping of Tutsi women served to symbolically devalue the Tutsi honor. In a country where the value of a woman was based on her virtue, virginity and cleanliness, a victim of rape was considered a disgrace to her family and hence the perpetrators used rape to destroy the Tutsi families and communities. Rape was also used as a method of ethnic cleansing—in the case of Rwanda, the cleansing of the entire Tutsi ethnicity. Hutu militiamen raped Tutsi women (and Hutu women married to a Tutsi man) to terminate an existing pregnancy of an enemy child, or to create a pregnancy with a Hutu child (More information on


In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there was a widespread belief that raping women would give militiamen more power and invincibility (Women Under Seige). Raping also served as a method of controlling natural resources. As explained in Merideth Turshen’s paper, “The Political Economy of Rape […],” the perpetrators would take their victims as their ‘wives’ and through what she termed “bogus weddings,” the perpetrators would receive self-granted access to their victims land and resources.


The preceding reasons for rape are specific to wartime. So once again, what are the similarities between rape on college campuses and rape during conflict? Though wartime and campus life are two completely different contexts, rape occurs surprisingly for similar reasons. One main similarity is that in most cases, rape has historically been used as a systematic tool for domination and power. This is seen in David Lisak’s study and interviews on rape incidents on college campuses and how undetected rapists (college students) strategically plan out how to make a girl vulnerable in order for them to make easier sexual advances on them. Lisak argues that men, both undetected and incarcerated, rape in order to reaffirm their position in society as superior to women. Similarly in wartimes, rape is used as a way for the enemies to manifest their superiority over women, especially women affiliated with their enemies. Another important similarity is that most rapists are repeat offenders. Lisak discovered in his research that 76% of the 120 undetected rapists on campus were repeat rapists, having raped an average of 6 women. Similarly in wartimes, most of the perpetrators are repeat rapists, some of which having raped up to 10 women as seen in the case of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rape on college campuses turns out to be similar to rape during wartime in the sense that the men involved commit these crimes to assert their superiority over women. Likewise in wartimes, most rapists on college campuses are repeat offenders, and some are even unaware of it. This shows that though women have succeeded in moving up the social ladder, many men have found it difficult to digest the idea of gendered equality. Therefore, the best way to change this perception of women deeply ingrained in both men and women’s minds is through education at an early age for a person educated on gendered equality will most likely grow up regarding both sexes with equal respect.

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Lust Rape, Date Rape, and Evil Rape? The societal and punitive dangers of classifying rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United States

By: Laurabeth Goldsmith

 The way rape is classified can have dangerous consequences on societal norms in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and on college campuses in the United States. Classifying some rapes as more serious offences than others can diminish the community response and severity of punishment for all perpetrators of rape. This societal classification system makes some perpetrators feel like their actions are not criminal or evil and leaves some victims feeling as though it is their fault or a natural societal consequence that they are raped. In war-torn countries and on college campuses, some forms of rape are normalized and decriminalized.  

According to a cross-sectional study conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2010, 40% of Congolese women and 24% of Congolese men have experienced sexual assault. In the households surveyed, sixty-seven percent experienced human rights abuses related to the conflict. It is estimated that there are over 200,000 surviving rape victims living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today and that 48 women are raped every hour in the country. The ongoing conflict in the DRC has led to a normalization of violence and rape. Violence has remained prevalent on an intermittent basis since King Leopold acquired the country as his own private colony in 1885, committing massive human rights abuses – including mass rape – in order to extract resources such as rubber from the region.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, traumatic gynecologic fistula (TGF) is a frequent result of sexual violence. TGF is “an abnormal opening between the reproductive tract of a woman or girl and one or more body cavities or surfaces, caused by sexual violence.” Traumatic gynecologic fistula is most common in conflict regions, and there are no solid estimates of its prevalence. That said, between 1999-2012 the Panzi hospital in Bukavu alone treated over 19,000 survivors for their injuries resulting from rape.

Maria Stern’s article Why Soldiers Rape partially untangles the complexities of sexual assault in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Soldiers interviewed for the article repeatedly argued that rape took different forms. As one male lieutenant explained, “There are different types of rape. They are all forbidden. There is the rape when a soldier is away, when he has not seen his women for a while and has needs and no money. This is the lust⁄need rape. But there are also the bad rapes, as a result of the spirit of war (…) to humiliate the dignity of people. This is an evil rape.” While there is no doubt that some rapes in the DRC cause more serious physical and psychological damages than others (including TGF), Stern defends the principle that there is no justification for lust rape. Classifying some rapes as fulfilling needs and others as an inevitable consequence of war diminishes the severity of the crime and helps to normalize such violence. Perpetrators are infrequently convicted due to the frequency of attacks, the current war-torn state of the country and the lack of political will and infrastructure to hold them accountable.   

In the United States, terms like date rape, acquaintance rape, and rape light are frequently used to describe rape, especially on college campuses. According to a National Crime Victimization Study conducted in 2005, two thirds of rapes in the United States were committed by a person the victim already knew. In fact, thirty-eight percent of rapists were friends or acquaintances. Considering the high percentage of rapes that are committed by people known to the victims, it is vital that these rapes be treated as serious crimes and that perpetrators be found guilty, despite the increased difficulty in prosecuting non-stranger rape cases.

On college campuses, predatory behavior includes predators targeting victims and supplying them with large amounts of alcohol or drugs. This further complicates the idea of consent, considering people under the influence cannot legally consent. As David Lisak, a prominent scholar focusing on sexual assault, stated at a lecture at Emory, “We don’t like to think of ‘our’ people as criminals, and most of our people are not, but that very small number are sex offenders. And once the pattern is established, it tends not to be something that just stops—it tends to go on.”

A 2006-2010 National Crime Victimization Survey found that 54% of sexual assaults in the United States went unreported.Additionally, according to David Lisak’s research, two thirds of rapists were repeat offenders; the average rapist committed 5.8 rapes. As Vice President Biden recently stated, “Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault. No more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist. We need to give victims the support they need, like a confidential place to go, and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice.” At present, only three percent of rapists in the United States ever spend a day in jail.

At universities, rape cases are often heard by student conduct boards rather than through the criminal justice system. These boards mete out minimal punishments, in effect classifying college rapes as a non-criminal offense. While students may still turn to the criminal justice system, the student conduct board system is often pushed upon students in order to decrease the number of sexual assaults that are reported in accordance with the Jeanne Clery Act. For example, at Brown University a man was suspended for just one semester after raping and choking a fellow student. Cases are currently pending against Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and Tufts University regarding Title IX violations which created an unsafe environment for victims of sexual assault.

While the situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United States are extremely different in terms of the severity of abuses, the frequency of gang rape and the resources available for survivors, key similarities do exist. Unfortunately, in both countries a classification system which destigmatizes and decriminalizes some rape has emerged; unfortunately, in both countries the percentage of perpetrators sent to prison for their crimes is abominably low.



 Baaz, Maria Eriksson, and Maria Stern. “Why Do Soldiers Rape? Masculinity, Violence, and Sexuality in the Armed Forces in the Congo (DRC).” International Studies Quarterly 53.2 (2009): 495-518. Print.

Conlon, Kevin. “Du Pont Heir Convicted of Raping Daughter Spared Prison.” CNN. Cable News Network, 02 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <;.

“Emory University Center for Women at Emory.” It’s Not “Rape Light” Emory, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <;.

Johnson, Kirsten. “Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.” JAMA Network. N.p., 4 Aug. 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <;.

Lisak, David, and Paul M. Miller. “Repeat rape and multiple offending among undetected rapists.” Violence and victims 17.1 (2002): 73-84.

Lloyd-Davies, Fiona. “Why Eastern DR Congo Is ‘rape Capital of the World'” CNN. Cable News Network, 25 Nov. 2011. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.


“RAPE AS A WEAPON.” Panzi Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. <;.

“Reporting Rates: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.”Reporting Rates Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

“The Offenders | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.” The Offenders | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <>.

Valenti, Jessica. “The White House Wants to End Campus Rape. Great. Now What about Colleges?” April 30, 2014. Accessed April 30, 2014.


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