Why Rape Happens at Harvard

MORE than 25 percent of college women report having been raped. Eighty-four percent of those rapes are committed by men known to the victims. Fifty-seven percent happen on dates. And almost 10 percent of college men report having committed acts which meet the legal definitions of rape or attempted rape.

These statistics, from a comprehensive 1987 college survey by Ms. magazine are mirrored by other studies across the nation and by reports from Harvard officials. All these studies show that the problem of acquaintance rape will not be solved unless men and women change their attitudes about what constitutes acceptable sexual behavior.

A study conducted through the University of California at Los Angeles found that 54 percent of teenage men thought forced sex was acceptable if a woman said "yes" and then changed her mind; 39 percent thought rape was acceptable if a man spent a lot of money on his date, and 36 percent thought that if a man got so excited he thought he could not stop, forced sex would be permissible.

Other studies have shown that more than a third of men believe that women provoke rape by their appearance or behavior, that the degree of a woman's resistance should be the major factor in determining if a rape has occured and that it would do some women good to be raped.

And 63 percent of women whose attacks met the legal definition of rape or attempted rape did not consider themselves to have been raped.


IT IS clear from these numbers that the average college student's views on sex and rape are in need of an overhaul.

Rape counselors and College officials agree that the first step to reducing the frequency of date rape is to educate students. When we maintain an "it doesn't happen here" mentality, we ensure that it will continue to happen here.

Because acquaintance rape is such an underreported crime--Assistant Dean for Coeducation Janet Viggiani says that about one in 100 cases are reported to officials--it will be difficult to combat it with stronger punishment.

Viggiani says that almost two-thirds of all first-year proctors asked the date rape peer counselors to speak in their dorms. This is an encouraging number, but it is not nearly high enough.

Every student should watch the date rape workshop and should consider whether they violate other people's boundaries and how they set their own. According to members of Response, a peer counseling group that handles issues of sexual violence, the main stumbling block to a mandatory date rape workshop for first-year students is the office of Henry C. Moses, dean of first-year students.

Harvard should live up to its responsibility to ensure that women can work in an environment free from the fear of rape. Perhaps the most frightening statistic of all is that 41 percent of women who have been raped say they expect to be raped again.