It's a touchy subject, booze and rape on college campuses. Emily Yoffe, Slate's advice columnist, caught hell last month for suggesting that parents and universities need to do a better job warning students of the connection between binge drinking and sexual assault. Yoffe offered a measured argument that is backed by research (she cites a finding that 80 percent of on-campus sexual assaults involve alcohol) and framed so as to minimize the perception that she was blaming the victims, none of which allowed her to sidestep the label of rape apologist.
So, what happens when a student journalist makes a parallel but much less carefully argued point in a campus newspaper, as SMU's Kirby Wiley did on Friday in The Daily Campus? It sparks an immediate backlash and makes CNN.
Wiley -- who, for clarity's sake, is a woman -- offers a similar premise to Yoffe's. But rather than attempting to avoid assigning fault to rape victims, she dives right in, wondering in the wake of several reports of on-campus sexual assault, "[I]s the blame being placed in the right place?"
Although it sounds harsh to place any blame on the victims of these incidents, if the media continues to place all the blame on the perpetrator, young college women will never learn that there is a way to help prevent these kinds of acts.
The best way for women to prevent these assaults from happening to them is to never drink so much that they cannot control themselves or remember what happened the next day. If women quit putting themselves in situations where they appear vulnerable, it will be much less likely for men to try and take advantage of them.
But, it seems trying to tell college students not to drink too much is a very difficult message to get across when there isn't a concrete reason why they should.
If the media would focus more attention on the fact that the majority of the women who are sexually assaulted are intoxicated, as opposed to stating and restating how horrible the perpetrator is, then maybe young women would start to listen.
Almost immediately, SMU's Women's Interest Network had a petition on Change.org calling for the Daily Campus to "STOP publishing articles contributing to rape culture and misogyny."
The entire article is nothing but victim blaming by a rape apologist. Other recent articles include "Modest Costumes Exist," in which the author gives female students suggestions on how to not look like sluts on Halloween; and "SMU In Need of More Men," in which another author says, "The modern women's rights movement has put women at the forefront of every issue and left men utterly powerless." The Daily Campus has an obligation to justice---what are the ethics of this paper? These types of articles are a slap in the face to young women on this campus who are survivors of rape, and publication of such articles discourage the reporting of sexual assaults
A pair of former Daily Campus editors, Nathaniel French and Jessica Huseman (whom, full disclosure, I edited for about a week at the UTD Mercury), chimed in with a letter to the editor arguing that Wiley's piece in particular is "not an appropriate way to report on a serious problem affecting colleges around the country."
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In an interview with Unfair Park, Daily Campus editor Katy Roden defended the publication of the piece, describing the op-ed page as an open forum.
"Regardless of whether we agree with it or I agree with it, we welcome all voices," she says.
Roden and other Daily Campus editors are scheduled to meet with the group behind the petition to discuss their concerns and "clear up them thinking that we are trying to push a misogynist or rape-culture agenda."
Wiley, meanwhile, stands by her piece, telling CNN that her point was that media should report when sexual assault victims were drunk "to inform other women of this factor that studies have shown increases the risk of sexual assaults."