Rape culture and victim blaming are still all too real at our universities

Feminist activist Helena Horton believes that British universities still have a long way to go

The University of Kent's attitude to rape and rape counseling is problematic, but sadly not a one-off in university counselling services.

On its rape advice page, which has since been changed due to feedback from students, it suggested that some rapes are the result of a ‘misunderstanding’ and implied that this was sometimes partly due to the victim if there was alcohol involved. It also said that when someone is raped, their ‘innocence’ is stolen.

How are victims meant to recover from their ordeal, at a counseling service that is there to help them, if they are interrogated at every step and blamed for the crimes committed against them? If someone was mugged when they were drunk and less able to defend themselves, I doubt that people would see the crime as any less of a crime; in fact they may be even more on the side of the victim; as the mugger has taken advantage of someone who is vulnerable. Why is this attitude not applied to rape, even in university counseling services?

This victim-blaming and bias in favour of the rapists - criminals - is not on and has angered students old and new.

Kent’s women’s officer Bethany Taylor commented; “I am the woman’s officer and found this whilst doing research for our rape awareness campaign. I am pretty sure it would have been left if I hadn’t found it yesterday. Horrified was not close to my reaction.”

Students at the University of York, where I study, seem to have a better attitude towards rape and rape apology; a campaign successfully took down a student-run Facebook ‘Spotted’ page, wherein students would nominate which people they would ‘do’ and what they would do to them. What’s more, we didn’t jump onto the damaging ‘rate your shag’ bandwagon which has cropped up at universities around the country; instead we had a popular parody page where people rated shag carpets.

However, lad culture still exists. The York Tories hosting a ‘fox hunting’ party where the men dressed as hunters and the women dressed as foxes, to be ‘hunted’, while sports teams still joke about ‘f***ing a fresher’.

Rape culture like this doesn’t seem to be taken seriously by society in general, and it is even more frightening that this is the on campus, when many people are living on their own for the first time, and the excuse of drunkenness is more likely to be used because, yes, there is a lot more alcohol and sex on campus than there is out there in the grown-up world.

It goes without saying that rape is a frightening, traumatic and damaging ordeal and victims of rape often need proper treatment and counselling. They need to be listened to, not questioned and blamed for their traumatic ordeal. Kent’s attitude is symptomatic of a bigger problem in the UK - we need to be taking rape culture seriously.

We need a reform of the university counselling and harassment services, to correctly blame the attacker, not the victim, and offer proper help and mitigating circumstances for those who have been so affected by their experience that they are unable to work to their full potential; we are, after all, at university to learn.

Universities aren’t doing enough. Changing a website page which simply reflects the institutional rape apologism which is inherent in university rape and harassment codes and actions around the country is insufficient.

The NUS isn’t doing enough. Commissioning a report on lad culture that only NUS boffins will read isn’t going to do anything. We need to lay out clear guidelines and let universities know that we are angry and that we want change.

We as a society aren’t doing enough. Instead of making rape jokes about women studying in the library, rating our shags online and joking about preying on impressionable freshers, we should be respecting each other. Instead of asking what our friends were wearing when they got sexually harassed and using alcohol as an excuse, we should be sympathetic. Our friends are confiding in us for a reason, not because they want to be laughed at and shouted down.

Why do we so often assume that the woman is lying, that she was drunk or that she was asking for it? No one asks for assault. People don’t say that victims of other physical assault were ‘asking for it’, or say that it ‘takes two to tango’ when someone is a victim of theft. So why are universities, and people who go to them, treating rape differently?

When someone is raped, their ‘innocence’ isn’t stolen. Sometimes, their life is. Sometimes, their hopes of getting a good degree and reaching their full potential is. Sometimes, their feeling of safety and ability to function without being frightened and traumatised when going out is. The only innocence that is lost is that of the rapist and that of the people who attempt to cover the rape up.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Print Producer / Account Executive

£18 - 25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Graduate Print Producer / Account Execut...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketing Assistant - Wimbledon

£18000 - £19000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketin...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'