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ONE out of every four female college students will be raped by somebody she knows at school. Harvard deans and peer counselors say there is no reason to think that fewer date rapes occur on this campus. So why does the Administrative Board hear only 2 percent of the estimated 180 date rape cases that occur on this campus each year?
The answer became clear in an article in last Friday's Crimson. Ad Board members Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education Jeffrey Wolcowitz demonstrated an archaic blame-the-victim attitude. It is an attitude that can only discourage women from filing acquaintance rape complaints.
According to Jewett, most cases of sexual assault that have appeared before the Ad Board involve abuse of alcohol or other substances. In response to a question about the difficulty of resolving these cases, Jewett said, "When people are drunk, they may not remember whether they said yes or not. The person that's drunk is not always clear, is not articulate, and that's why you get these cases." This response implies that it is the woman's responsibility to remain sober and articulate--and not the man's responsibility to be 100 percent sure that the woman is willing.
"I think the women often find it difficult to say a forceful no. I have a sense that in many of these cases the woman thinks she has said no, but it may have been in subtle ways--ways that may have caused confusion," Wolcowitz said. Again, this reasoning lays primary responsibility on the woman and--whether Wolcowitz intended it or not--lends credence to the vicious view that saying "no" can, "in subtle ways," really mean yes.
DATE rape isn't limited to blatant cases of violence; it is any case where an acquaintance ignores the protests of a woman and forces her to have sex. "Articulate" or not, "forceful" or not, a "no" means "no." Wolcowitz and Jewett's remarks are unfortunate coming from any University officers--but completely unacceptable from the administrators who judge date rape cases. Jewett and Wolcowitz should immediately recuse themselves from any pending date rape cases.
This case illustrates all too clearly the need for a new disciplinary body to handle sexual assault cases. Members of this body should be familiar with the definition of date rape as well as procedures that ensure the rights of the accused.
Acquaintance rape is too important--and too common--a problem for the University to continue to treat it with outdated attitudes and veiled indifference.
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