Rape culture is teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of transforming the culture so that men do not rape.

I am troubled that the article "Rape Culture and Christian Colleges" (March 2017) unintentionally perpetuates the false idea that sexual violence and rape culture are not part of Christian college campuses or Christian's experience.

To the many readers who have been sexually assaulted, one of the most hurtful realities is the denial of one’s experience, the minimization of the problem. Even worse is the placement of blame for their own victimization.

Rape culture is the environment in which sexual assault is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized and perpetuated. It is reflected and reinforced in language, images, laws, and everyday interactions. Examples include the trivialization of sexual violence through comments such as “boys will be boys” and using euphemisms such as “sexual misconduct” (when in fact, sexual assault—a broader term than rape—is a criminal offense). Rape culture is teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of transforming the culture so that men do not rape. Statistics (such that 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted in college) reflect rape culture. Rape culture is the tendency for colleges to cover up sexual assault (as in the recent charges at Baylor University).

We need to boldly shine a light on the truth that sexual violence and rape culture are prevalent, impacting individuals we know and the communities in which we live. For instance, at Calvin College, we have collected information on the problem. This data suggests that approximately 1 in 10 students experience a form of sexual violence during an academic year. And if you think this refers only to women, you’d be wrong.

Denial of rape culture IS rape culture. Instead we must acknowledge and lament this aspect of brokenness in our world. Only when we repent and identify our role in the problem can we move toward restoration. We recognize that religious beliefs, texts, and teachings can serve both as roadblocks and as resources for victim-survivors. Similarly, religious institutions can promote justice by acknowledging the truth, or they can perpetuate myths related to sexual violence, thereby reinforcing rape culture.

Any amount of violence is worth fighting against, and any symptom of rape culture needs to be addressed. Here are a few examples of what we are doing at Calvin:

1. Collecting data on incidence of violence and perceptions of the campus climate.
2. Providing training related to sexual violence prevention for all students.
3. Organizing events to raise awareness and educate the campus.
4. Providing information about reporting and services to victim-survivors.
5. Offering individual counseling and support groups for victim-survivors.

And yet, we have a long way to go.

See comments (43)

Comments

Hmmm.  I'll be sure, when next time giving advice to a young person or parents from my church or otherwise about college options, to suggest that Calvin College might be an option but they should be aware there is a rape culture there, as attested to by one of the College's own professors, and they should take that into account.

Mr. Vander Griend,

According to the Professor, your advice to youngsters is problematic. That is because "rape culture is teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of transforming the culture so that men do not rape." So, please don't tell any young woman that, according to Calvin's own research, statistically she has a 35% chance of being a victim of sexual violence in her four years at Calvin. Warning young women about the dangers of Calvin is just perpetuating rape culture.

Now, this makes very little sense to me. Nor do I think that 10% of all Calvin students (including men!) are annually victims of "sexual violence" (unless it's a very broad definition). But I suppose this is what passes, and is rewarded, as academic research today.

When I was a freshman at Calvin 30 years ago, I met three different young women from CRC backgrounds who had been raped--two by family members and one by a boyfriend. These happened before they ever got to Calvin. The church and Christian colleges are not safe zones from this aspect of our culture. Since college I've known others who have been assaulted, and I can only imagine how many I don't know about because they keep quiet.

I have heard my whole life how I need to protect myself and how I need to dress and behave in a way that will avoid making myself a target. I have heard victims blame themselves and I've heard others blame them. I have heard very little public advice on how men should behave. I'm so glad that Calvin is speaking about it, taking steps to educate students about it, and working to fight a culture that puts the weight of blame and guilt on the victim.

 

“Denial of rape culture IS rape culture.”

 

 I think this assertion places people in an untenable position: Either you agree that “rape culture” exists at your particular locale or institution, or you prove yourself guilty by your denial of such.  It’s a win-win situation for the accuser and a lose-lose situation for the accused.  It’s akin to the old question: Have you stopped beating your wife?  Is it not plausible to the author that there are places in the world (yes, particularly Christian institutions) that do not foster an “environment in which sexual assault is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized and perpetuated”?  I shudder at such a view of the world.  I don’t believe that the author is well positioned to make such a sweeping judgment. 

 

Interesting that three men have responded as opposed to only one woman. More interesting that their response to the article is negative/sarcastic, while the woman's response resonates completely with the article. That, in itself, says a lot.

Don.  Why do you conclude my post was negative or sarcastic?  I'm not too closely connected with Calvin College.  Maybe it does have a rape culture.  One of its professors says so in this article and the college doesn't seem to be challenging the assertion.

I certainly don't think all Christian Colleges have a rape culture.  I graduated from Dordt in 1976.  Certainly, Dordt didn't have anything at all that resembled the elements of rape culture as presented and characterized by this article's author.  And that was in 1976.  Since then, I've kept up with Dordt and am persuaded they still don't, so many years later, have a rape culture.  (And in the Banner article that this article responded to, the Dordt representative claimed as I do).

So I don't know, Don.  Maybe Calvin College does have a rape culture, even if some other Christian Colleges don't. 

Don,

Let me be clear: sexual violence and rape are heinous crimes and should be vigorously prosecuted. I attended Calvin and have approximatelly 20 family members who have attended or are currently attending Calvin. The College reflects our debased culture, and rightly should seek to educate students in Christian behavior. But I do not think that 10% of students, every year, are subject to sexual violence. Again, over four years of attendance, that is a 35% probability of being a victim of sexual violence. Who would send their children to a place that risky?

Terms like "rape culture" (and "white privilege" from a recent Banner editorial) are leftist buzzwords that are quite fashionable in academia today. To proponents of these ideas, the source of social problems are orthodox Christianity, Western Civilization, and white males. The author seems to be willing to indict the entire Calvin community to fit this Worldview.

See yesterday's article by Heather Mac Donald: "The Real 'War on Women'" for an alternative view on "rape culture".

 

Hi Don,

Thanks for interacting.  I’m not sure a sample size of 4 commenters is a statistically significant sample size for reaching any hard conclusions about patterns in commenting.  Also, the ratio of three to one in the first 4 comments is probably not too far off from the typical pattern in The Banner comment section – generally men submit more comments here than women, likely for a number of reasons. 

I would echo Doug in asking how you come to the conclusion that my comment is negative or sarcastic?  I simply made an observation about a statement and asked a question based on the article posted.  Isn’t that what the comment section is for: engaging with the content of the article in conversation so that we grow together?  In that vein, I would encourage you to engage with some of the actual content of the comments.  That would make for a more productive conversation than veiled insinuation.  If you have an alternative viewpoint to one of the comments, by all means go ahead and express that.  So, for instance, if you think that the rhetorical device I commented on is fair and doesn't represent a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't dilema, then help me understand where my observation comes up short. 

 

I just stated what I obeserved.  I'm content to let other readers draw their own conclusions.  Doug, if you want to pretend that your first post is free from any underlying sarcasm, that's just fine. 

Actually Don, I was, with my comment, fishing a bit for responses.  I'm not so familiar with the culture at Calvin.  But others are, and my question (expressed by my comment) to those who do know the college, was, "do you folks who know this school actually think it has a rape culture?"

And it seems it might.  After all, no one is objecting to this author's claim that Calvin College does have a rape culture.  I find this a bit surprising, and certainly sad.  But hey, there are alternative Christian colleges that don't have a rape culture.

Uh huh. Right, Doug.  Whatever you say.

So Don, do you think there is a rape culture at Calvin College?

It is possible for any college or university to have a variety of cultures within it.  It is important neither to ignore these, nor to overblow them.   The problem is identifying a particular culture such as a rape culture or rape culture with an institution.  It can be like saying that within the author of this article is a culture of sin.  Simply because it is undeniable that everyone sins.  But the reality needs to be put into perspective.  Does the college have a culture of rape?  or is it just some students?   Is it commonly approved of?  or is it most commonly condemned?  

Every college has probably had some individuals who used drugs, or at least experimented with them.  I can remember a college coach who seemed to highlight his sexual exploits... and he was married and was talking about his wife.  Does that mean there was a culture of sexual braggadocio?  

Sexual sins have existed since the time of King David, but calling these sins a "culture", as if they were implicitly approved, takes it to a whole 'nother level.  And requires a much higher degree of evidence and proof.  

And while I do not approve of any sexual force or assault or rape, nevertheless humans are a victim of their own desires when they commit crimes or assaults or other sins.  The woman who wants the physical/sexual  recognition and gives the impression as a result, that she is sitting on the fence when it comes to morals, is both a victim of her own desires, and a victim of the fads of fashion, as well as willing to assault the senses of those who it is her specific intent to attract.  The man who thinks only of his own sexual desires and physical needs and indulges them both in his looking and in his thoughts is a victim of his own desires as well as being willing to assault the women with his mind.  Carrying all this to an actual physical deed takes it to another level of course, but thinking it is only about physical assault misses the actual purpose of a christian college.  This purpose should be to teach and regard both men and women as belonging to God, as gifts to each other only in the context of God's promises and God's creation conditions.  

As a Calvin grad, current employee of Calvin (for 10 years), and member of Calvin's Sexual Assault Prevention Team, I wish I could unread most of the comments on this article.

Thanks to my colleague Rachel Venema for taking the time to write this response and share examples of how we are working to address this problem.

Lies,

As a former Calvin student, I wish I could unread Banner articles by Calvin employees that are derivative of fashionable leftist thoughts of others. But I can't, so I point out their intellectual deficiencies. You may do the same...

Questions: is sexual violence really that bad at Calvin? Are 10% of students victims of sexual violence every year? What is the author's definition of "sexual violence?"

I am deeply saddened by the comments below this article, written by my colleague and fellow Sexual Assault Prevention Team member. I have been an employee of Calvin College for almost 20 years.
Calvin is precisely the school you should recommend to people in your community. We don't stick our head in the sand as an institution and pretend that none of this happens. We try very hard (imperfectly, yes) to make this a place where victims feel supported, cared for and loved. NO institution is safe from sexual violence. We have people who become victims during their time at Calvin, but we also have students here who were victims long before they even came to Calvin to study. We try to care for all of them. Denying the issue perpetuates the pain and makes a victim's journey even more difficult to handle. I can't believe that in 2017 we're still having to fight against our 'own' to help this segment of the population. This is not a political issue. This is a human issue. Open your eyes.

Marty, I'm not a former anything. I've worked at Calvin for 14 years and work there now. I cannot speak to how things were in the past or who did what or whether anyone else was aware of it or cared. This is our reality now.

Calvin is a great school because we do not stick our heads in the sand about these issues. Rachel's response clearly outlined the things we are currently doing to bring awareness to and reduce instances of sexual violence among our community. If anyone would like to know more or get involved, SAPT meets weekly and is open to students, faculty, and staff.

The campus climate survey was done in 2013 and is being repeated again this year. It is significant enough that it was granted resources such as funding and the time and expertise of those who know how to conduct a study with such a large N value and interpret the data.

 

is sexual violence really that bad at Calvin?

"That" is a loaded word here. One in ten is a lot better than the national statistic for college-aged men and women, so one could argue that Calvin does "better" than the population in general, but is one in ten an acceptable measure of success? I don't think so.


Are 10% of students victims of sexual violence every year?

The campus climate survey from 2013 revealed that 10% of students were victims of sexual violence during the school year.

 

What is the author's definition of "sexual violence?"

I do not have a copy of the original survey in front of me, so I will look for that and get back to you, but based on our lengthy discussions around the original survey and the upcoming survey, I would think of "sexual violence" as any non-consensual or coerced physical contact of a sexual nature.

Responding to Lies Rosema

If what this author and you say is actually correct, Lies, this is indeed sad, and, frankly, cause for prospective students who want to attend a Christian college to look elsewhere.  I no longer have college aged kids, but if I did, this would be a further reason to encourage them to attend a college like Dordt as opposed to Calvin.

Perhaps what most created a bit of skepticism in my mind about this author's claims is that she asserts "denial of rape culture IS rape culture," a rhetorical "heads I win tails you lose" kind of argument that is both invalid on its face and evidence that she has formed a conclusion and then set out to find the evidence.  Still, it is possible that Calvin College simply has a problem with sexual violence.  Again, I don't have enough first hand experience with the college to suggest I might know otherwise.

Doug,

There is not a college/university out there that doesn't deal with this problem. If they say they don't, they are either denying the problem, or they are lying about it. If you think your student is safer at a public university or Dordt, think again.

Hi Doug,

I have personally never been to Dordt so I will not make presumptions about what sorts of educational opportunities or support for victims of sexual assault might be available at other schools. I'm sure Dordt is a fine school, by all means recommend it to your friends and family. I can say that SAPT at Calvin exists in a much broader context than some sort of competition about who is "better" or what college we want kids to attend. We serve students who have chosen to attend Calvin and the faculty and staff who have chosen to work there; our membership consists of students, faculty, and staff and is not part of any enrollment or marketing department trying to get people to attend Calvin. SAPT at Calvin has existed over 25 years, longer than many of our current members have been alive.

To anyone who does have college aged kids, I would recommend that you have serious conversations with them about affirmative consent and peer/bystander intervention, regardless of where they choose to attend. Evidence shows that training and education in these area reduces the rate of sexual violence.

Also, a reminder that Rachel wrote this in response to the original article, which doesn't seem to be linked, so here it is:

https://thebanner.org/news/2017/02/rape-culture-and-christian-colleges

(Doug, the comments there might be of interest to you?)

Hello Renee,

I'm confused by this comment: "I can't believe that in 2017 we're still having to fight against our 'own' to help this segment of the population."  Who is fighting against your work to help victims of abuse/violence?

Also, you say these two things: "NO institution is safe from sexual violence." and "There is not a college/university out there that doesn't deal with this problem. If they say they don't, they are either denying the problem, or they are lying about it."  Do you have reference to a college official or supporter saying that sexual assault does not occur at a certain locations? 

I haven't read anyone here dispute that there will be incidents of sexual violence/abuse anywhere you go.  To suggest otherwise would be essentially to deny depravity.  However, it is another thing altogether to say that an institution has an "environment in which sexual assault is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized and perpetuated".  You will find people that push back against such a description of an institution they know of and care for.  That should not surprise you, and I'm curious as to why you find that "deeply saddening". 

I would think college staff would be more prepared to have their thoughts and ideas challenged. 

Eric, this is from the original piece, "Some, like Howard Wilson, vice president and chief administrative officer at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, don’t relate to that term at all. 'We don’t believe [rape culture] exists on our campus,' he said."

Personally, I'd be interested to know what Mr. Wilson actually said. I have nothing against the use of paraphrasing for the sake of brevity, but that quote is one example of why I'm not at all impressed with the original piece (and why Rachel was asked to write a response). It looks like words were put in his mouth, but the way it reads might give insight to your question, "Do you have reference to a college official or supporter saying that sexual assault does not occur at a certain locations?"

Hello Lies,

I think it is great that Calvin College is seeking to address concerns they have about sexual abuse/violence on campus and seeking to support those who have been a victim of abuse/vioence. 

I too read the original article and read Rachel's opinions in the context of the original article.  That is part of the reason why I commented on Rachels assertion that "denial of rape culture is rape culture".  You see, in context, Rachel was very impugning the testimony of Howard Wilson of Dordt College who stated the following in that article: "We don’t believe [rape culture] exists on our campus. It’s just not who we are."  Rachel was saying that either Howard is a liar or he is blind, and in either case he is only showing his guilt and complicity in the very thing he is denying.  I dont' know how, in context, we are to understand her assertion any other way.  So, while you may not care to comment about Dordt, Rachel clealy has by insinuation.  Remember, she does not talk just about Calvin, she begins her article by stating that the original article "perpetuates the false idea that sexual violence and rape culture are not part of Christian college campuses" (notice: campuses = plural). 

I do happen to know a thing or two about Dordt College.  I have no interest in pitting Dordt against Calvin.  I know nothing that can be gained from that.  But I commend Howard Wilson for not capitulating to the description of the Christian institution where he serves as a place where sexual assault is covered up, where men are not taught not to rape, where sexual assault is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized and perpetuated, or where sexual violence is trivilaized.  I graduated from Dordt in 1993 and my son just graduated this year.  To suggest that these are accurate markers or descriptors for the campus climate or culture at Dordt is ridiculous.  Is there sexual sin at Dordt?  Sure there is.  It would be equally ridiculous to suggest otherwise, and I am sure Howard Wilson would agree.  But to say that Howard Wilson is providing proof or evidence of rape culture at Dordt simply becuase he will not accept an outsider's hostile description of the instituion he serves at ungracious and unfounded.  And that will garner reactions.  I would hope that Calvin staff would have the academic rigor to withstand such a challenge to their ideas.

Hello Lies,

We cross-posted there, sorry.  And please forgive my hasty typos.  To say "rape culture does not exist here - that's not who we are" is entirely different than saying "there is no sexual assault here."  The article gives no reason to believe that Howard Wilson said anything near the second statement. 

Doug, Marty, Eric, John,

I want to start here. I’m going to start by sharing the understanding of rape culture that I work with and will refer to in this absurdly long comment. My sense is your pushback against this article, is, in part, due to a different understanding of what rape culture is. I sense that you are working with a broken definition of rape culture. A definition that, and I KNOW you’re going to hate this claim, perpetuates rape culture by enabling you, christian colleges, the church, this country, to deny its existence.

I see rape culture in any message that, even in faint and seemingly indirect ways, normalizes sexual assault.

This normalization contributes to:

  1. instances of sexual assault

and (and to me this is KEY)

2. Emotional abuse or neglect of survivors of sexual assault, a failure to support and care for these people.

Does that make sense?

So, rape culture on a college campus doesn’t just endanger students by making sexual assault more likely, it creates an environment painful and toxic for survivors.

Rape culture often looks like messages that sexually objectify women, minimize the trauma of sexual assault, blame the victim, underestimate the prevalence of sexual assault, minimized the importance of consent, and a bunch of other stuff.

I think the language of Calvin does/doesn’t have “a rape culture” is not quite the right frame. Like, does Calvin have “a hip hop culture”? No, hip hop is not the defining culture of Calvin. Is hip hop culture (listening to hip hop, fashion inspired by the hip community) PRESENT at Calvin? Yeah. Is “rape culture” the defining culture at Calvin? No. Is rape culture PRESENT at Calvin (and Dordt, and Bob Jones, and Wheaton, and Taylor, and MSU, and Grand Rapids Christian High School)? YES. Obviously it is, because rape culture (objectifying women, using minimizing language related to rape, viewing sex as a form of conquest, some many other things) is embedded in AMERICAN CULTURE. Yes, this is a broader application of the term rape culture than y’all were tossing around. This is probably a more helpful understanding of it.

Do you at least believe there is rape culture (using my definition) in America? Perpetrators getting light sentences, victims being blamed, jokes that minimize rape, the objectification of women. We can agree this happens in this country, right? And what about pornography! There’s no rape culture at Dordt? You don’t think any of those kids at Dordt are watching pornography for crying out loud?!

So how might it feel to be a survivor of sexual assault (during college or otherwise) at a school where you’re exposed to stuff like this:

“I just got raped by that test” (has been said at Calvin and Dordt I GUARANTEE)

Ideas like, “xyz wouldn’t have happened if she adhered to the rules.”

Silence concerning the importance of (sexual or otherwise) consent in romantic relationships

I really think your hearts might be softened on this stuff if you think about those people. Survivors of sexual assault have read this article and read these comments and how might they feel?

Might they feel, “it sounds like they believe what happened to me probably didn’t really happen to me.”

So, that’s who you might be hurting with your comments. Help me understand who you’re serving? The poor christian college student whose day is hurt by being reminded that rape is real and might happen to someone they know?

Ok, now some direct responses.

Doug, your first comment is baffling. Are you scoffing at a Calvin employee’s heartfelt plea for sexual assault to be take more seriously at christian institutions.

Your joke seems to be: “Nice PR for Calvin, Ms. Venema. *scoff*

You’re not going to believe this Doug, but the employees of Calvin, from the faculty and staff on up to the president, ARE more concerned with doing what we can to reduce instances of sexual assault among our students than with PR. Crazy, right? What in the world are we thinking.

I would guess the president of Dordt feels the exact same way. I was troubled by his comment in a previous article that suggested rape culture wasn’t a part of Dordt, but I think he just hasn’t had conversations with the right staff and students about 1. the meaning of rape culture and 2. real life at Dordt.

Doug, what’s your point? Stop trying to fight sexual assault, you’re wasting your time and making your school look bad?

Doug, you also wrote, “Don. Why do you conclude my post was negative or sarcastic?  I'm not too closely connected with Calvin College.  Maybe it does have a rape culture.  One of its professors says so in this article and the college doesn't seem to be challenging the assertion.”

Your glibness in discussion of this topic is horrifying. I feel awful for any past and current Dordt students who were victims of sexual assault while at Dordt, or any survivors of sexual assault who may have arrived at Dordt to find an unsupportive community in denial of the ways it may have be unsupportive.

Marty, you wrote:

“But I suppose this is what passes, and is rewarded, as academic research today.”

Marty, did you look at the research and how it was conducted? Of course you didn’t. You have NO idea what you’re talking about.


And, I’m sorry, what should be researched instead? What is more important that learning about, and potentially helping prevent, rape at Calvin College? Marty, tell me, what is more important?

It also sounds like you doubt that men are sexually assaulted in any significant number. 1. Come on, seriously?! 2. Do you want some names? I’ve got names.

Imagine you’re a guy who been sexually assaulted. How would it feel to read that some guy commenting on a christian magazine website barely believes that’s even possible? Filled with the love of Christ?

And if you try to make this discussion about liberal buzzwords and PC agendas, I’m going to flip a table over. We have conservative and liberal students at Calvin who have survived sexual assault, we have conservative and liberal students at Calvin who are fighting together against rape culture.

Eric Van Dyken. Yeah, you’re right, in some applications, “Denial of rape culture IS rape culture,” is an unfair statement. I don’t think denial of rape culture in, say, the music of Kenny G, is evidence of rape culture. But, in a discussion of college campuses, some presence of rape culture MUST be assumed. It MUST be. In part because it’s a part of American culture, in part because of the age of college students, and in part because to NOT assume its presence is to neglect the students who may be in greatest pain.

No, it is absolutely not plausible, nor remotely helpful, to believe there is a Christian college insulated from rape culture

I canNOT believe I’m about to go all reformed on your ass, but sin touches everything. This belief that Christians can insulate themselves, in any form, from the presence of sin, is diametrically opposed to fundamental Calvinist belief. Thus the Church, Christian colleges, Christian music (don’t even get me started), though good, are broken, touched by sin just liked everything else in creation.

So, to serve our students we start with the assumption* (*and/or DATA, for crying out loud) that this heartbreaking form of sin is present on our campus and we must do all we can to serve the students who are or may become affected by it.

So, yeah, it’s possible there are some small Christian colleges where no one was sexually assaulted this year. That’s not impossible, and would be great news. Even there, though, I believe the students are better served by understanding the presence of rape culture in this country and ways it touches the campus and it’s students.

John Z, you also write, “it is important neither to ignore these, nor to overblow them.” I think it’s a lot more important that we don’t ignore them then that we don’t overblow them. The only reason it even seems like we’re anywhere NEAR overblowing them is because we’ve been IGNORING them for so long.

You also write (and I’m still reeling) “The woman who wants the physical/sexual recognition and gives the impression as a result, that she is sitting on the fence when it comes to morals, is both a victim of her own desires… as well as willing to assault the senses of those who it is her specific intent to attract.  

As well as willing to assault the senses of those…?! Assault the senses?!

We’re talking about actual sexual assault, John. We’re talking about the, generally understood, worst experience a person can inflict on another. Your comparison is horrifying. It’s also rape culture.

Comparing sexual assault to the “assault” of one’s sense by, like, sexy clothes or whatever is rape culture.

Doug, Marty, Eric, John, I have no idea who or what you feel like you are fighting for. My sense it’s some sense that Ms. Venema has not shared the “truth” of these issues in the article she wrote, but there are millions of survivors of sexual assault while at college, including christian colleges, who say otherwise..

Who is served by the argument that rape culture is not a problem in Christian Colleges? Maybe the admissions offices of those colleges, yeah. Those who have sexual assaulted classmates, too, may be comforted, for they may escape justice.

I want to work at an institution where survivors of sexual assault feel supported. Feel BELIEVED. Feel that their pain matters. Feel that their school is working hard to care for them and prevent this from happening to other students.

I sincerely hope some of this is helpful, compelling, enlightening, challenging, or convicting. Any of those things would be great. Regardless, I hope any survivors of sexual assault who are shocked and disheartened by your comments know that I stand with them and will continue to stand with them and will (no doubt, imperfectly) shout to defend them if they are feeling voiceless.

My name’s John Williamson. I work at Calvin College. I could do this all day.

 

Eric, the article also put the words rape culture into his mouth, assuming that's why the brackets were used in his quote, which is why I'm curious what he actually said (whether I agree with him or not, if I were him I'd be uncomfortable being quoted in that way). I do not like the original article for many reasons, and not just because I may or may not disagree with who thinks rape culture exists where. Unfortunately I do not think it was well researched or well written. Most of the content has nothing to do with the topic of rape culture, which just perpetuates the confusion and lack of cohesion between people at similar instutitions who end up bickering in the comments section rather than actually doing anything measurable to help.

Lies,

For what it's worth, I don't think this is bickering (defined as "petulant quarreling"), I think it is discussing - which is what the comment section is for. 

Also, I reject the false choice of discussing matters *or* "actually doing anything measurable to help".  I think there is room for both, and I believe you do too or you would not have commented here or commended Rachel for writing.

Lies,

In context, it appears as though Howard Wilson was asked about rape culture at Dordt, and he responded that he does not think "it" exists on campus.  Reporters will commonly insert the original subject in brackets (in this case, "it" is replaced with "rape culture") so the reader is clear what the quotee was referring to by "it".  That is fairly common practice in journalism and does not amount to putting words in someone's mouth.  As a matter of fact, the brackets specifically indicate that the words have been inserted into the quote for clarification.  In this way the journalist communcates clearly the meaning of the original quote while acknowledging the insertion.  I see no reason to believe otherwise in this case. 

Doug, Marty, Eric, John,

I want to start here. I’m going to start by sharing the understanding of rape culture that I work with and will refer to in this absurdly long comment. My sense is your pushback against this article, is, in part, due to a different understanding of what rape culture is. I sense that you are working with a broken definition of rape culture. A definition that, and I KNOW you’re going to hate this claim, perpetuates rape culture by enabling you, christian colleges, the church, this country, to deny its existence.

I see rape culture in any message that, even in faint and seemingly indirect ways, normalizes sexual assault.

This normalization contributes to:

  1. instances of sexual assault

and (and to me this is KEY)

2. Emotional abuse or neglect of survivors of sexual assault, a failure to support and care for these people.

Does that make sense?

So, rape culture on a college campus doesn’t just endanger students by making sexual assault more likely, it creates an environment painful and toxic for survivors.

Rape culture often looks like messages that sexually objectify women, minimize the trauma of sexual assault, blame the victim, underestimate the prevalence of sexual assault, minimized the importance of consent, and a bunch of other stuff.

I think the language of Calvin does/doesn’t have “a rape culture” is not quite the right frame. Like, does Calvin have “a hip hop culture”? No, hip hop is not the defining culture of Calvin. Is hip hop culture (listening to hip hop, fashion inspired by the hip community) PRESENT at Calvin? Yeah. Is “rape culture” the defining culture at Calvin? No. Is rape culture PRESENT at Calvin (and Dordt, and Bob Jones, and Wheaton, and Taylor, and MSU, and Grand Rapids Christian High School)? YES. Obviously it is, because rape culture (objectifying women, using minimizing language related to rape, viewing sex as a form of conquest, some many other things) is embedded in AMERICAN CULTURE. Yes, this is a broader application of the term rape culture than y’all were tossing around. This is probably a more helpful understanding of it.

Do you at least believe there is rape culture (using my definition) in America? Perpetrators getting light sentences, victims being blamed, jokes that minimize rape, the objectification of women. We can agree this happens in this country, right? And what about pornography! There’s no rape culture at Dordt? You don’t think any of those kids at Dordt are watching pornography for crying out loud?!

So how might it feel to be a survivor of sexual assault (during college or otherwise) at a school where you’re exposed to stuff like this:

“I just got raped by that test” (has been said at Calvin and Dordt I GUARANTEE)

Ideas like, “xyz wouldn’t have happened if she adhered to the rules.”

Silence concerning the importance of (sexual or otherwise) consent in romantic relationships

I really think your hearts might be softened on this stuff if you think about those people. Survivors of sexual assault have read this article and read these comments and how might they feel?

Might they feel, “it sounds like they believe what happened to me probably didn’t really happen to me.”

So, that’s who you might be hurting with your comments. Help me understand who you’re serving? The poor christian college student whose day is hurt by being reminded that rape is real and might happen to someone they know?

Ok, now some direct responses.

Doug, your first comment is baffling. Are you scoffing at a Calvin employee’s heartfelt plea for sexual assault to be take more seriously at christian institutions.

Your joke seems to be: “Nice PR for Calvin, Ms. Venema. *scoff*

You’re not going to believe this Doug, but the employees of Calvin, from the faculty and staff on up to the president, ARE more concerned with doing what we can to reduce instances of sexual assault among our students than with PR. Crazy, right? What in the world are we thinking.

I would guess the president of Dordt feels the exact same way. I was troubled by his comment in a previous article that suggested rape culture wasn’t a part of Dordt, but I think he just hasn’t had conversations with the right staff and students about 1. the meaning of rape culture and 2. real life at Dordt.

Doug, what’s your point? Stop trying to fight sexual assault, you’re wasting your time and making your school look bad?

Doug, you also wrote, “Don. Why do you conclude my post was negative or sarcastic?  I'm not too closely connected with Calvin College.  Maybe it does have a rape culture.  One of its professors says so in this article and the college doesn't seem to be challenging the assertion.”

Your glibness in discussion of this topic is horrifying. I feel awful for any past and current Dordt students who were victims of sexual assault while at Dordt, or any survivors of sexual assault who may have arrived at Dordt to find an unsupportive community in denial of the ways it may have be unsupportive.

Marty, you wrote:

“But I suppose this is what passes, and is rewarded, as academic research today.”

Marty, did you look at the research and how it was conducted? Of course you didn’t. You have NO idea what you’re talking about.

 

And, I’m sorry, what should be researched instead? What is more important that learning about, and potentially helping prevent, rape at Calvin College? Marty, tell me, what is more important?

It also sounds like you doubt that men are sexually assaulted in any significant number. 1. Come on, seriously?! 2. Do you want some names? I’ve got names.

Imagine you’re a guy who been sexually assaulted. How would it feel to read that some guy commenting on a christian magazine website barely believes that’s even possible? Filled with the love of Christ?

And if you try to make this discussion about liberal buzzwords and PC agendas, I’m going to flip a table over. We have conservative and liberal students at Calvin who have survived sexual assault, we have conservative and liberal students at Calvin who are fighting together against rape culture.

Eric Van Dyken. Yeah, you’re right, in some applications, “Denial of rape culture IS rape culture,” is an unfair statement. I don’t think denial of rape culture in, say, the music of Kenny G, is evidence of rape culture. But, in a discussion of college campuses, some presence of rape culture MUST be assumed. It MUST be. In part because it’s a part of American culture, in part because of the age of college students, and in part because to NOT assume its presence is to neglect the students who may be in greatest pain.

No, it is absolutely not plausible, nor remotely helpful, to believe there is a Christian college insulated from rape culture

I canNOT believe I’m about to go all reformed on you, but sin touches everything. This belief that Christians can insulate themselves, in any form, from the presence of sin, is diametrically opposed to fundamental Calvinist belief. Thus the Church, Christian colleges, Christian music (don’t even get me started), though good, are broken, touched by sin just liked everything else in creation.

So, to serve our students we start with the assumption* (*and/or DATA, for crying out loud) that this heartbreaking form of sin is present on our campus and we must do all we can to serve the students who are or may become affected by it.

So, yeah, it’s possible there are some small Christian colleges where no one was sexually assaulted this year. That’s not impossible, and would be great news. Even there, though, I believe the students are better served by understanding the presence of rape culture in this country and ways it touches the campus and it’s students.

John Z, you also write, “it is important neither to ignore these, nor to overblow them.” I think it’s a lot more important that we don’t ignore them then that we don’t overblow them. The only reason it even seems like we’re anywhere NEAR overblowing them is because we’ve been IGNORING them for so long.

You also write (and I’m still reeling) “The woman who wants the physical/sexual recognition and gives the impression as a result, that she is sitting on the fence when it comes to morals, is both a victim of her own desires… as well as willing to assault the senses of those who it is her specific intent to attract.  

As well as willing to assault the senses of those…?! Assault the senses?!

We’re talking about actual sexual assault, John. We’re talking about the, generally understood, worst experience a person can inflict on another. Your comparison is horrifying. It’s also rape culture.

Comparing sexual assault to the “assault” of one’s sense by, like, sexy clothes or whatever is rape culture.

Doug, Marty, Eric, John, I have no idea who or what you feel like you are fighting for. My sense it’s some sense that Ms. Venema has not shared the “truth” of these issues in the article she wrote, but there are millions of survivors of sexual assault while at college, including christian colleges, who say otherwise..

Who is served by the argument that rape culture is not a problem in Christian Colleges? Maybe the admissions offices of those colleges, yeah. Those who have sexual assaulted classmates, too, may be comforted, for they may escape justice.

I want to work at an institution where survivors of sexual assault feel supported. Feel BELIEVED. Feel that their pain matters. Feel that their school is working hard to care for them and prevent this from happening to other students.

I sincerely hope some of this is helpful, compelling, enlightening, challenging, or convicting. Any of those things would be great. Regardless, I hope any survivors of sexual assault who are shocked and disheartened by your comments know that I stand with them and will continue to stand with them and will (no doubt, imperfectly) shout to defend them if they are feeling voiceless.

My name’s John Williamson. I work at Calvin College. I could do this all day.

Hello John (Williamson),

Thanks for your contribution.  That certainly is a lot to digest, though you won’t find me faulting you for length, as I tend to be longwinded myself.  I’m not sure it will be helpful for me to try to address all that you have said, but I’ll try to hit some points. 

1.      The rape culture definition that I was working from was the one stated and described in the article, which seemed reasonable to me, given that this was the definition offered by Rachel.  If you are working from a different definition, you might want to straighten that out with Rachel.  I do categorically reject that description of the college that I and my son (and many other friends and relatives) graduated from.  I won’t apologize for that, and I reject the notion that this can reasonably be construed as traumatizing anyone.  I have not in any way or fashion normalized sexual assault.  I do deny the existence of rape culture as defined in the article at Dordt College.  That is not the same as denying that sexual assault has occurred and will occur again at times at Dordt College.  I think I have been fairly clear on that.  I wasn’t “tossing around” a definition of rape culture – one was offered to me in the article, and I responded based on that. 

2.      The fact that people sin sexually at a particular location (including looking at porn, lusting in the heart, whatever the sexual sin may be), does not approach rape culture.  The word “culture” has to mean something in that definition, and it does as is offered by Rachel.  The alternate definition you have offered is so broad as to become meaningless, as there is no possible place and time where it would not apply.  If everything is rape culture, the term loses any real meaning or application.

3.      I have never in all of my years of school at any level heard anyone say they were “raped by a test”.  It is possible that someone has said something of that sort, I suppose.  Such a statement is crass, as best, and not emblematic of mature communication.  Any person hearing such a statement would have little trouble realizing it for what it is: careless language.  To suggest that such a crass statement normalizes rape is to assign much to much meaning to it.  No one takes that literally. 

4.      Please don’t attempt to state that I and others have hard hearts concerning this matter.  You have no idea the condition of my heart, so please don’t suggest that my heart would be softened if I just thought of other people.  There is no hardness of heart expressed in my comments.  I challenged ideas. You should be used to that on a college campus – it’s healthy. 

5.      Don’t act as if any of us have denied the reality of rape.  That is intellectually dishonest and insulting.  You should be able to make your points without stooping to that level.  There is not a hint of insinuation that any of us have acted as if someone’s experience with sexual assault really didn’t happen to them.  That’s ridiculous. 

6.      Howard Wilson is not the president of Dordt College.  To suggest that Howard Wilson does know “real life at Dordt” but you do is insulting.  To suggest that Howard Wilson is simply ignorant and needs to talk to the right students and staff is also insulting.

7.      I don’t remember Doug making any negative comments about efforts to fight sexual assault at Calvin.  I do remember Doug expressing some surprise at how the culture at Calvin was described by a professor of the college.

8.      If you read my comments, you would see that not only did I not deny the universal presence of sin (but thanks for the primer anyway), but I also agreed that there was and is sexual sin at Dordt College – for Pete’s sake, I even said it would be ridiculous to suggest otherwise.  You keep equating the presence of sexual sin with rape culture.  As noted before, not only does that make your version of rape culture meaningless because it means *everything*, but that is clearly not the definition given in the article. If you can’t make that distinction, I don’t see how we’ll reach any common ground.  It is not only plausible, but it should be expected that collections of Christians do not maintain an “environment where sexual assault is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized and perpetuated.”  That does not deny the presence of sexual sin in any form.  But a community that does not maintain such a culture should not be surprising for born again Christians who are being sanctified.   To say that a community that has any element of such a culture then has the culture is not what the definition itself says.  You do understand what the definition of prevalent is, right? Prevalent: Widely accepted or practiced.  You do not have to the right to claim that sexual assault is widely accepted or practiced at a Christian college because some young people there looked at porn or because someone there was assaulted.  That in no way diminishes that seriousness of someone being assaulted.

9.      I am not “fighting for” anything.  I’m challenging some of Rachel’s ideas and their application.  I remain perplexed that now a third college staff person is so taken aback at the free exchange of ideas.  One would assume that such a free exchange of ideas is what occurs regularly on college campuses.  It certainly was the case for me – that’s how I learned and grew.  I still revel in opportunities to engage in such discourse, hence my involvement in the comment section here. 

10.   I’m glad that you and your school are working hard to help victims of sexual violence/assault.  So are many other people.  Including people at colleges other than your college, whether they agree to accept your description of their campus culture or not.  Thanks for joining the discussion.

 

I'll have to get to this tomorrow, but I just want to clarfify that Rachel and I use the same definition of rape culture. I tried to outline a way of looking at rape culture from a perspective that might help you understand these things that you do not understand.

So, with the understanding now that I provided a new angle through which to view the same definition, would you be willing help me see how either:

1. My extrapolation of what rape culture looks like is unhelpful/problematic

2. Your comments would not make a survivor of rape during their time at Calvin feel less supported.

Maybe this is what I need help with:

1. Can you imagine how the suggestion that sexual assault or rape culture are a smaller problem than they actually are perpetuates their presence?

2. Who do you believe your comments are helping? Who is being served? Help me understand the good you believe you are doing.

3. Here's a fun one, let's pretend Rachel and I are about this: sexual assault is not as prevalent as the studies suggest, and the attitudes about sex, victims and causes of sexual assault, and the language used on campuses are not contributing to a less physically and emotionally safe student body. Who has our well informed misunderstanding hurt?

Let's assume you're​ wrong. What are the consequences if not a hindrance to the fight again sexual assault on our campuses?

4. Imagine​ you are a student who WAS sexually assaulted while a student at Calvin or Dordt or wherever. How would you feel to read these denials that there is a culture that perpetuates sexual assault, or that reports of sexual assault are exaggerated?

If you have a hard time imagining, I'll ask them for you, and let you know.

Again, just, what in the world do you think you're accomplishing? You can't possibly think you're comments are helping fight sexual assault, can you?

Hi John,

I don't have a lot of time to answer your questions right now, but I'll take a stab at your first response quickly, and try to get back more later. You asked two questions in your first response.  Responses below as follows:

1.  I already explained to you how your extrapolation is unhelpful.  You expanded the definition of rape culture so far as to be all inclusive, which I submit to you makes the term essentially (in application) meaningless.  It simply becomes a nice all-situations verbal tool to wield against others.  I reject that. Throughout your initial post you essentialy equated any situation where sexual sin is/has occured as instance of rape culture.  That is not what Rachel did.  She had a specific definition that is listed plainly in the article.  I responded to that.  Words mean things.

2.  Your asking me here to prove a negative.  That's poor form.  I am not, nor have I ever, argued that sexual assault is not present or that it is less prevalent than it actually is. As for a student at Calvin, I have made absolutely no statements about Calvin campus climate or culture or incidence of sexual assault there, so why would my comments on the use of the term rape culture or the rhetorical device used to convict anyone and everyone make them feel less supported?  There is no logical nexus.  

Ok, it looks like the good faith effort to understand each other is over. And looking at other articles you've commented on it my sense is our worldviews are too far apart to make meaningful progress.

I want to mention this, because "words matter," to an example of rape culture I have observed, language like, "I was raped by that test," you responded with, "to suggest such a crass statement normalizes rape is to assign too much meaning to it. No one takes that literally."

To use the word "rape" in a casual, crass joke is to devalue the word and drain it of its meaning. To use this serious word in a joke is to deny, to distract from the true, heartbreaking meaning of the word. To normalize, or soften the term "rape' is to normalize rape, because "words matter." Everytime a student If a survivor of rape were to hear this joke, it may cause them pain. 

The prevalence of pornography is an example of rape culture in American society. The images in pornography objectify women, often even depicting graphic content of sexual situations that, in essence, reenact sexual assault. Pornography is also present on college campuses, all of them. Therefore, rape culture, in this instance, pornography, which (FEEL free to argue with me on this one) normalizes sexual assault, is present on Christian college campuses including Calvin, where Rachel and I work, and Dordt, which you seem to be into.

Pornography normalizes sexual assault.

Prevalence of pornography is an example of rape culture.

A significant number of students at Christian colleges look at pornography (demonstrated by the many programs hosted by Dordt, Calvin and others to address the problem of pornography

Rape culture is present on Christian college campuses.

QED, pal

I just want to assert that I know survivors of sexual assault who have read your comments and felt hurt. It sounds like you don't consider that possible, or possibly you don't consider that your problem. You seem confident that you have not said anything that may be counterproductive to the fight against sexual assault. I strongly disagree, but I think encouraging responses from you may only be even more counterproductive.

John W.:

TLDR. Sorry.

To the other SAPT members:

I'm sorry, but I'm still stuck on the math...

-10% of Calvin students, every year, are victims of sexual violence. -5-10% of victims are male (according to SAPT webpage) -there are two genders, male and female -there were about 550 female graduates this year who attended Calvin, on average, for four years

Unless I'm doing the math wrong (very possible), those facts result in approximately 225 young women (50% of graduating class) who were victims of sexual violence at least once while they were at Calvin.

Again, who would send their daughter to a place that dangerous?

Responding to John Williamson.

I want to respond, John, to your characterization of the content of my comments, as well as you perception of my intentions in them.

First, let's get specific about what this author clearly states/claims in this article about what she means (and you apparently) by "rape culture," and what she (and you) mean when you suggest that a college (including Dordt, whether you/she knows anything about Dordt or not).

To quote, "Rape culture is the environment in which sexual assault is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized and perpetuated."

To quote, "Rape culture is the tendency for colleges to cover up sexual assault."

To quote, "Rape culture is teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of transforming the culture so that men do not rape."

To quote, "Denial of rape culture IS rape culture."

Finally, to quote, "To the many readers who have been sexually assaulted, one of the most hurtful realities is the denial of one’s experience, the minimization of the problem. Even worse is the placement of blame for their own victimization."  (Fairly read in the context of this article, this is what institutions/colleges do because they have "rape culture."

This author isn't merely claiming that sexual sin exists everywhere, including on college campuses.  Had she said that, there would likely be no comments to the article.  She says that "rape culture" exists at Calvin College, and she defines that by the quoted phrases above.

To repeat, but it bears repeating, this article claims that at Calvin College, "... sexual assault is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized and perpetuated."  No, this was not the case at Dordt College during the four years I was there (as was my wife), this was not the case when two of our children were there, and Dordt's representative is quite correct is denying that it was or is the case at Dordt.  To the contrary, Dordt College would and does take a posture quite the opposite of insisting on "normalizing" or "perpetuating" of sexual assault and violence if/when it occurred.  Indeed, Dordt would be that it were made aware of consensual, non-marital sex (which would no doubt cause others in the Christian college community to call Dordt prudish).

To repeat again, but it again bears repeating, this article claims that at Calvin College, there "is the tendency of [the] college[] cover up sexual assault."  Again, no, this would not be Dordt's tendency at all.  Rather, I have very good cause to expect Dordt would expell a student who committed sexual assault.  It certainly wouldn't say "boys will be boys" or use some other disarming euphamism as this article would suggest.  I'm surprised that Calvin wouldn't expell the student or would excuse by euphamism (but maybe it would/wouldn't, despite what this article claims?).

To repeat yet again, but yet again it bears repeating, this article claims that at Calvin College, the college or perhaps someone else "... teach[es] women to avoid getting raped instead of transforming the culture so that men do not rape."  Wow, that describes the polar opposite of what Dordt has done or would do.

To repeat one more time, I am absolutely certain that Dordt would never "... place[] [] blame [on sexual assault victims] for their own victimization," nor deny the experience of the victim, but I would expect the assailant to be rather promptly expelled.

Finally, in repetition, this article claims that "Denial of rape culture [at a Christian College] IS rape culture."  I don't know if Calvin does that (denies it has a rape culture).  But this one charge Dordt is "guilty of" -- Dordt's representative did deny it has a rape culture on campus.  I'm sure Dordt would also deny the particulars of the more specific claims made by this author (as discussed above).

Like Eric, I have no wish to pit Calvin against Dordt, but a Calvin professor seems to be claiming that her college has "...  the tendency for colleges to cover up sexual assault," that it creates or allows an "environment in which sexual assault is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized and perpetuated," that it teaches or tolerating teaching "... women to avoid getting raped instead of transforming the culture so that men do not rape."  Dordt would say it does none of that.  Two Dordt grads who later sent kids to Dordt would agree.  Again, I can't speak for Calvin but I can attest to Dordt.

Finally, John, please tell me it was a typo when you wrote, "I canNOT believe I’m about to go all reformed on your ass, but sin touches everything."  To inject gratuitous sexualization into this discussion is a bit horrifying to me (just as I seemed to horrify you by my comment, as you say).  Indeed, were I to have publicly used that kind of sexualized communication when I was a student at Dordt, I would have been reprimanded and perhaps then some.  Even in today's world, I would see that kind of communication as inappropriate and counter-productive (I would expect it from Trump).  One might even make the argument that it "normalizes sexual violence," that is does what this this author decries is happening on Christian College campuses.  So was a typo?  If not, explain what exactly referrencing doing something "on [my] ass" and that of others is supposed to mean?  If this wasn't a typo, you give me cause to think the culture at Calvin and Dordt may be more different than I had supposed.

Marty,

No problem that you didn't read my post. We're only talking about sexual assault, so feel free to not worry too much about it. Just throw your comments around and don't worry who they might be hurting.

Your math is wrong, but I'm not going to teach you how to do math.

The idea that around 200 female students each year experience one of the many forms of sexual assault is a tragically high number, but not an implausible one. Perhaps instead of worrying whether that number is as accurate, we could worry more about lowering the number, whatever it is. Maybe it's more like 150, which is tragic and unacceptable, but not especially high compared to most colleges.

And, this isn't especially relevant, but because I don't like you, you say, "there are only two genders," but you're wrong about that too.

Doug, as far your claim that sexual assault was not something that happened at Dordt when you or your children were students. I hope you are right. I don’t know. But I believe you are assuming that it was not present based on your own experience. The whole point here, Doug, is that sexual assault is much more common among christian college students than we realize.

 

Here’s a question, was consensual extramarital sex a part of the experience of any Dordt students when you or your children were there?

 

You suggest that Rachel claims, that Calvin covers up sexual assault. That’s connect dots that you don’t have grounds to connect.

 

She wrote “"Rape culture is the tendency for colleges to cover up sexual assault." Covering up sexual assault on colleges campuses is prevalent across this country. It is an example of rape culture, but it is not a necessary condition for rape culture to be present.

 

I don’t know of sexual assault being covered up at Calvin, I don’t assume it has been. But to assume it is not possible at my or any school does a great disservice to potential survivors of sexual assault.

 

I think you don’t understand what teaching someone to avoid being raped actually means/looks like, but I’ll leave that research up to you.

 

Do you believe the commenter above is lying when she writes: “I have heard my whole life how I need to protect myself and how I need to dress and behave in a way that will avoid making myself a target. I have heard victims blame themselves and I've heard others blame them. I have heard very little public advice on how men should behave. “

 

How do you SO confidently speak about about everything that has ever happened at Dordt with regard to sexual assault or how the school has managed it?! How do you know they have never failed to support a victim of sexual assault?! How do you know?!


You don’t. You simply don’t. You don’t know what you are talking about.

You are writing what you BELIEVE about this school, but don’t confuse your beliefs with facts. I don’t have facts all the facts about sexual assault at Dordt, but neither do you and to assume everything is going fine there is to risk tragedy.

 

Keep in mind that sexual assault happens to people through no fault of their own. Something terrible might have happened with an abusive relative, and the assumption that your alma mater could not possibly have any elements, any messages about sex that would fail to support that student or that potentially add to their guilt and shame and feeling of dirtiness is a terrible mistake.

 

Imagine JUST ONE person at Dordt was raped by her boyfriend when she was a sophomore and was afraid to talk about it or tell on him or afraid people would ask questions like, “what were you wearing?” or “were you drinking,” or, “you must have done something to make him think you wanted it.” Imagine they read these comments and a guy named Doug keeps saying it’s NOT POSSIBLE, not at his school! The worst thing EVER happens to you and you’re afraid to talk about it and are afraid you won’t be believe and here’s some guy on the internet denying your experience is real.

 

You’re standing up for the majority at Dordt, I’m trying to stand up for the people who may have been abused and scared and silenced and hidden. I HOPE it’s fewer people than I believe but assuming this couldn’t possibly be an issue is a HUGE problem and that’s what this entire piece by Rachel is about!


As far as the getting “reformed on your ass” comment. I did think I rephrased but I guess accidentally copied in an early draft. There was certainly no sexual intent. I will refer you to the wiktionary entry for “your ass,” - “personal pronoun, second person, singular.” It’s basically a coarse way of saying “you” if that’s helpful. It was meant to be a sort of playful use of crude language, humorously juxtaposed with a theological argument. I apologize if it offended your (or any other reader’s) sensibilities.

 

Hi John,

 I’m sorry that you feel that we can’t have a productive conversation.  But if you feel that further interaction will not be helpful, I respect your decision to withdraw.  I am left, however, with some confusion that I guess will remain unresolved.  I have a few items in closing, if you desire to just read without responding further. 

  1.  I am unclear how I have not acted in good faith.  Must I simply agree with your perspective?  You asked me a series of questions.  I began to address them with the time that I had.  I answered them honestly and openly.  How is that acting in bad faith?
  2. “QED, pal”.  I guess I’ve either gained a friend, or you mean this derisively.  If the latter is true, I’m surprised that you are so willing to make this personal.  And, for the record: you may believe you have decisively proven something (hence QED), but that is open to discussion.  It seems as if perhaps you are the one who is unwilling to consider that the other side has an argument worth considering. 

  3. I’m surprised at your unwillingness to acknowledge and interact with the text of the original article, which is of course what a number of us have responded/reacted to.   For more on that, see Doug’s exhaustive quotes.  It is hard to come to a common understanding when you mischaracterize what we have objected to and you change the definition provided in the article.  I certainly won’t (nor can I image anyone else commenting here) for a second dispute that sexual sin, poor response to sexual assault,  insensitive comments, etc. can and do occur everywhere.  And clearly I stipulated as much several times in my comments.  What you seem unwilling to grapple with is that this is decidedly not what any of us objected to.  We reacted to specific words, phrases, and institutional characterizations in the article.  Until we can discuss those specific areas of contention, we will speak past each other. 

  4. I won’t be bullied into agreement or silence through vague accusations of hurting people.  Can you consider for a moment that I can find a dozen people who would be hurt or offended by your rape culture arguments?  Will you then cease and desist?  If you can point to where I have said something inherently offensive, crude, rude, or even over-the-top, please do so.  Otherwise, it is quite unfair to place normal dialogue out of the realm of allowable interaction.  Someone published an opinion piece.  I have merely challenged some of the ideas present in the opinion piece.  If this type of plain discourse is offensive to someone, I submit to you that this person is not prepared to interact in society generally and would do well to avoid reading any discussion that may possibly broach such a topic.  I’m not insensitive, but I do not support the idea that plain and reasonable disagreement must be silenced because to disagree with a concept is inherently harmful.  I don’t see how we can even exist together as different people with different viewpoints under such a standard. 

  5. If you are so concerned about how language affects peoples’ feelings and security, have you considered for a moment how your broad and all-inclusive application of the phrase “rape culture” might have on people?  Do you think it makes people feel safe when they are told that the college they will be attending the upcoming year will not support them, has a prevalence of sexual assault, and is likely to be dismissive if they are a victim of sexual assault?  If I can find 10 people who feel less safe, will you stop labeling every institution where sexual sin is present (which is, of course, every institution) an institution with rape culture?  In other words, are you willing to live by your own standard?

  6. You seem very concerned with the normalization or devaluing of the word “rape”, and I think rightly so.  I submit to you that your over-application of the term “rape culture” does exactly that.  To label every perceived slight, every careless word, every flippant statement, every opposing argument, every sexual sin, every wayward thought as “rape culture” trivializes the term and makes it essentially meaningless.  The effect of such is that people disregard the term as a rhetorical tool more than an apt and disturbing descriptor.  I can imagine places where the actual culture (defined in this context as: “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”) does promote, encourage, or perpetuate sexual assault.  Such places should be identified and rooted out.  And, yes, indeed all instances of sexual assault should also be taken seriously and rooted out.   But the mere presence of sexual sin does not a culture make.  It does not “characterize” the institution or meet the definition provided by the author.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if everything is special, then nothing is special.

  7. You seem to be quite serious and concerned about people dismissing the experience of others.  What about experiences of Howard Wilson, Doug, Marty, or Eric?  How is it that they can simply be discarded?

  8. I will reiterate that I very much appreciate that you and your colleagues at the institution you work at are very serious and determined in your response to sexual sins in many various forms.  I believe anything less would be unacceptable.  I have seen no comment here that denigrates, criticizes, or minimizes the efforts that you are making at your school.   I hope that you can appreciate that same effort happening at other institutions without expcting that every institution must adopt your terminology, approach, etc.  I believe you really want to help people.  I believe in your context many times you have/are.  I would hope you can extend that grace to others. 

 

I realize that I am joining in this conversation late, but I refuse to remain silent due to a mere matter of bad timing.

I am a 19-year-old female. I currently attend Calvin College and am a member of the Sexual Assault Prevention Team there. As a child, I moved ten times in four different states, attending four Christian Reformed churches, four Christian grade schools, and a Lutheran high school. Several members of my immediate family are ordained ministers in the Christian Reformed Church. Marty, I’m actually pretty sure I went to school with your son. I now have friends who attend Dordt College, Calvin College, Trinity Christian College, Indiana Wesleyan University, Hope College, Concordia University, Wisconsin Lutheran College, Valparaiso University, Butler University, Marquette University, the University of Wisconsin, Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, Ball State University, Grand Canyon University, Belmont University, the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, Harvard University, and countless other Christian and secular institutions. All this to say- I’ve seen my fair share of both Christian and secular institutions.

After all these experiences and things I have heard about all these institutions in my 19 years, I can say with full confidence that not one of them is free of a permeating rape culture. How do I know this? Because I have spent my whole life as a woman in these institutions and I can see with my own eyes the effects of rape culture in every single one.

 I saw it when I was made to believe by my Christian grade schools that my sexual purity was the most important part of me. That was objectifying who I am as a woman and it perpetuates rape.

 I see it when I realize that as a nineteen-year-old teenager, I have more friends than I can count on my hands that have been victims of sexual assault. If it were just a violent person here or there, that would not be true.

I see it in my Christian college when the boys in my class pick their project partners based on the size of their breasts and the professor merely tells them to “quit being childish.” Objectifying women isn’t childish or laughable, it’s horribly disrespectful and ignoring it encourages young men to continue believing women are items for their pleasure, not people, and thus makes rape seem less like the hideous crime it is.

I saw rape culture when one of my friends, a student at Dordt College, was told her rapist wouldn’t be held responsible because even though she was sure she didn’t say “yes” as he ripped her clothes off and raped her, leaving her bruised and bleeding, she couldn’t remember if she actually said the word “no.” She sat in class with the man who assaulted her for the rest of the semester, and had a mental breakdown from the stress. She was blamed for being a victim and a rapist went unpunished- this encourages further violence.

These are not just statistics. They are not isolated incidents. They are people who were failed by those who were supposed to stand up for them, to stop the objectification of their bodies, to educate the men around them about their worth, and to punish those who are violent, not those who were their victims. They were left broken by a culture that spends more time teaching girls to dress modestly and not go out alone than it does teaching man that women are not objects they can use for their pleasure whenever they please.

 You want to know who is hurt by your comments? I am. Who feels betrayed by the church that promised to be my family and blamed for being a victim of violence? I do.

So yeah, rape culture exists at Dordt, and it exists at Calvin. It exists everywhere sin does. Trust me. My experiences only scratch the surface of how women experience rape culture, not to mention its profound effect on men as well. I’m all for intellectual discussion- it’s my favorite part of being a college student. But denying that there is a culture present in all institutions that has led to disturbingly high instances of sexual assault is not intellectual, it’s ignorance and it is part of the problem. The fact of the matter is, careful and accurate studies have been done at countless Christian and secular institutions, and all the actual facts point to an incredible amount of sexual violence occurring on college campuses. It is happening and it is the church’s job to end it, plain and simple. "Intellectual discussion" on an internet forum does nothing of the sort.

Thanks, Rebecca. So well said, and so important. Hope everybody's listening to you.

I'm just now catching up on some of the comments. It is for others to decide whether or not they are impressed by the original piece that I wrote. However, there seems to be some indication that I "put words in Howard Wilson's mouth." That is not the case. It is in fact an exact quote from an interview I did with Howard Wilson and three other Dordt staff. 

Howard Wilson: we don’t relate to that term at all. We don’t believe it exists on our campus. It's hard for us to even answer that question.

Also, all the quotes used in the article were run past the people who gave them.