When My Students Get Raped
We should be careful about appropriating survivors’ stories.
It happens every semester. A student tells me someone harassed them. Someone groped them. Or someone raped them. Sometimes, more than one come to me. They ask for advice, or just an ear.
Many of my students want action and justice. But not everyone wants to report what happened to a Title IX office.
Even the most seemingly banal forms of misconduct aren’t easy to report. That applies to women and men, regardless of age or position or status. My first year of grad school, I got groped at a party. The person sitting next to me wouldn’t stop touching my crotch.
Everyone thought it was funny.
That night, I accepted a ride home from the same person. Why? He offered in front of the entire room, and I didn’t want to look rude. It was my first year, and I wanted to make friends.
That’s also why I’d kept returning to the same spot on the couch all night. Nobody seemed to acknowledge my reluctance.
The drive home wasn’t terrible. We made light conversation. Some people just get touchy when they’re drunk, I thought. Outside my apartment, he stopped the car and started pressuring me for a kiss.
“I’m so lonely,” he said. “Just one kiss. It would mean so much.”
Him: “Please? You’re so pretty. You can get kissed whenever you want. I’m cursed. I haven’t had a girlfriend in years.”
Luckily, I never felt physically threatened.
The next day, I didn’t tell anyone. First, I was embarrassed at how I’d acted. Even ashamed. I felt like I’d led this person on, and given tacit consent by not resisting. Second, I didn’t want to make waves.
I’d never said no, so the whole thing was my fault. I’d sacrificed my own autonomy for the sake of social acceptance. Plus, all he’d done was touch me and then use guilt to try and pressure me into a kiss.
A few years later, a male student in my program was assaulted. Exhausted from his dissertation, he fell asleep in a chair after two beers. A girl we all knew had been coming on to him…