North Texas Daily

Stop using arbitrary phrases to dismiss sexual assault victims

Stop using arbitrary phrases to dismiss sexual assault victims

Stop using arbitrary phrases to dismiss sexual assault victims
July 25
14:00 2018

Sexual assault has become as common a practice on college campuses today as rushing. The definition of rape is often subjective to the speaker of the word. Some say rape is simply defined as forcible sexual contact that includes penetration. Some believe coercion can also be involved.

College sexual assault can take many heinous forms: a late-night attack on campus by a stranger in the shadows, a relationship that has turned sour, a common stalker going rogue, etc. These are all cases where average people make conscious decisions to hurt somebody else. They may or may not have been in a good emotional or mental state at the time, but their judgment was still their own without any significant mitigating factors.

However, many do not take reports of assault seriously and impart harmful projections onto survivors. Assaults involving drugs or alcohol are even more quickly dismissed despite being just as emotionally and physically damaging for victims. Survivors are often bombarded with questions and asked many qualifiers to determine their worthiness as a victim.

In today’s society where cheeky shorts and crop tops are common choices for everyday wear, “Well, what were you wearing?” should not be the first question a survivor hears. Yet everyday victims are asked about their choice of clothing and the time of day they were wearing it.

Let’s get one thing straight: clothes do not incite rape.


“Well, were you drinking?” is another common question survivors get. This is where the lines get a little blurry because alcohol and other drugs can skew the memory of the victim and the perpetrator. When alcohol comes into the mix, it is difficult to determine the mindset of the offending party. Maybe there were no malicious intentions. Maybe the perp was drunker than the victim. Maybe one party seemed into it and didn’t voice any audible objections… Maybe.

No one really knows what goes on behind the closed doors of a rape, sometimes not even the involved parties themselves. But that shouldn’t matter when a survivor is seeking help. Victims are not going to fit one certain description or situation.

Rape victims are survivors who want to make it through to the other side. They want justice for themselves and perhaps others. They want a chance to recover and move on from a horrible experience.

This is not too much to ask for, but victims are often disbelieved, disregarded, and blamed by those they seek help from. Over and over we use the same stinging phrases to undermine victims.

Boys will be boys.

Were you flirting with him?

That’s ridiculous, men can’t be raped by women.

Are you sure it happened?

Were they drunk? Were you?

Did you try to stop him?

That’s just sex.

It could’ve been worse.

We have to do better as a society in making sure survivors know there are support systems in place for people like them to share their stories, seek retribution and heal.

If you are a victim of sexual assault please reach out to someone who can help. If you go to UNT, Renee LeClaire McNamara is the Assistant Director for Student Advocacy, Crisis Intervention and Violence Prevention. UNT Survivor Advocates can be reached at by email, and can be reached by phone at (940)-565-2648.

Featured Illustration by Elizabeth Rhoden

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Brianna Adams

Brianna Adams

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