Stories of College Rape Culture

She told me, huddled into a corner on the floor and speaking through tears, that “rape is just something that happens to everyone”. She told me that there was nothing she could do, that recounting it to a professional would only twist the knife in the wound. She told me that there wouldn’t be any repercussions for the boy, anyway. It wasn’t worth it. She freezes up every time she sees him.

She told me a story about a girl who decided to change sororities after being drugged at a party. She told me that there was no way the girl’s “sisters” didn’t know it was happening, guessed that maybe they had let it happen as a form of hazing or a rite of passage. Everyone knew except for the victim.

She told me that she feels conflicted about the event we attended on Halloween, which will be held again in the spring. If she does choose to attend the event again, she will be sure not to accept any of their alcohol. Her drink was drugged on Halloween. She wonders whether the next party will be enough fun to make her forget that she’s funding an organization where the boys mix Xanax into the vodka. She’ll be more careful next time.

She told me that the boy who keeps asking about her is only interested because she’s not interested in him. He just likes the chase. Being part of a fraternity, he is always in situations where girls throw themselves at him. His social life inherently revolves around parties with strict ratios that promise each brother his choice of willing girls. She typed her number into his phone as he flirted with three other girls. She knows she doesn’t have to sink to his level.

She told me about a classmate who reached out to her on their course’s Canvas page. It wasn’t a question about the homework. Just a “hey” to make his presence known. We laughed about it, but she knew that there was no way to report the way this boy made her feel. He feels entitled to her affection. She feels unsafe in class.

She told me that her mom thinks she’s being too hard on the boys who prey on her. Her mom tells her to take it as a compliment. Her parents think that she hasn’t been able to find a relationship because boys are scared of her. But really, she’s scared of them. She has no reason to trust them. She refuses to allow them to have power over her.

She told me that it seems to be a case of when, rather than if, someone will be sexually assaulted on campus. We have heard that about 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault during their time as undergraduates. She knows that the majority of these attacks come from a familiar face. Maybe she’s just trying to justify her own experiences by acting as if this happens to everyone. Maybe she believes it does.

Maybe one day she’ll share her own story. Maybe one day people will believe that rape culture is not only being forced into sex in a dark alleyway. Rape culture pervades our every thought, our every action, our every day. The more we notice it, the more likely we are to call it out.

Leana Reich is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Cultural and Linguistic Anthropology. She loves to explore cities, particularly by way of coffee shops and museums, and doesn’t properly understand how lucky she is to have lived at the beach her entire life. She does understand how lucky she is to have such an amazing mom as a role model and appreciates her every day. strives to amplify voices of women and survivors. Have a story to share?

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