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Guest Commentary: Community must address sexual assault

More police at Duke will not make us safe. Offering $5,000 on the head of the man who committed a sexual assault crime will not make us safe either. As a woman on this campus, I have experienced the sexual assaults that have occurred recently on campus as a crime against not just these individual women, but against all women. I experience it, as I believe many other women on this campus do, as a crime against our community. I don't feel safe. I have had to face up to my intense fears.

As a result of this, I am angry that I have to deal with these issues. As a woman at the Feb. 4 community vigil said, "I don't want to have to be lucky to not be raped." I think that the community vigil was an important step for the Duke community. I was touched by the number of people who came out on a cold Monday night to show support for the community. We need to do more, though, and I just keep thinking that more police at Duke won't make us safe.

The recent sexual assaults on campus have forced many students to face up to issues that many of us don't like to talk about. We pretend that women are not raped by husbands, boyfriends, acquaintances and strangers. We go about life trying not to think about it, except for maybe during Sexual Assault Awareness Week, where we are handed a flyer on the Bryan Center walkway. We need to talk about it more. We need to have mandatory programs for freshmen, and we need to be clear about where we stand on the issue as a community. Fraternities, sororities and other student organizations can be instrumental in doing this work.

Sexual assault and rape are fundamental components of the oppression of women. Rape is a struggle for control and domination, and it has historically been a way for men to maintain control over women's bodies. Feminist Susan Brownmiller traces patriarchy as it relates to the ownership of women's sexuality by fathers, brothers and husbands. Rape was a threat to this ownership. Furthermore, in 1975, Brownmiller said that "rape is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." Many years later, it rings equally true today.

Rape in our society needs to be recognized as what it is, a form of control and an expression of the violence that we see everywhere; in Afghanistan, in Israel and all over the world. Rape cannot be seen alone. It must be contextualized in a world where it is considered foreign policy to murder millions of people and call them "collateral damage." Violence against women, violence against nations and violence against people living in the United States by the state cannot be seen as separate phenomena. When police brutality, racial profiling and a racist prison-industrial complex cease to be, I may feel more comforted by the presence of more police on our campus. Until then, we need to look for alternative solutions.

We need to start a dialogue on the way that violence is seen as a tool in our relationships with each other and our nation's relationships with other nations. We need to stop investing our money in new bombs, new planes and a bigger military machine. These developments only encourage a climate of hatred and violence against women. In addition to what a build-up of our military does to our culture, it is a superficial response that cannot protect us from terrorist acts. We need to work harder, and we need to address deeper problems like U.S. cultural and economic domination. We need to start educating children in a way that emphasizes alternatives to corporate globalization, to militarization of our nation and of our borders and to violence against women, children and all people. It is important to see that these things are connected. Women and men need to speak out about these issues and take a strong stand. That is the only way we can hope to have a day when women no longer have to be fearful of being raped.

Jessica Rutter is a Trinity sophomore.


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