University of the Pacific Says Date Rape is Not Rape

by Cara on May 30, 2009

in assholes, courts, education and schools, misogyny, patriarchy, rape and sexual assault, slut-shaming, violence against women and girls

Last year, three male basketball players allegedly raped a woman (also a basketball player) at a party.  The assault took place on campus at the University of the Pacific, where seemingly the rapists and victim were all students.  Now, the woman has filed a lawsuit alleging that the school did not treat her case seriously; the woman herself left the school once the administrators refused to remove the accused from the campus.

Sounds bad, right?  Like we’ve got yet another university that doesn’t take rape seriously.  Oh, indeed we do.  But even more than I’m interested in what the university did and did not do behind closed doors, I’m interested in what they have to say openly to the media (trigger warning):

A woman identified in court papers as Jane Doe claimed in a March lawsuit that two basketball players raped her at a May 2008 party at Townhouses, campus housing on Pershing Avenue, and that a third player came into the room where she was and assaulted her as the first two players were leaving.

Pacific spokesman Richard Rojo said Thursday that the school does not consider the incident to be a rape.

“We would call it date rape,” he said.

Rojo said the university considers “outright rape” and date rape to be different, in that date rape does not involve “a rapist jumping out of bushes and attacking people randomly.”

He said, “These are people who knew each other. … It’s a social situation and unfortunately an all-too common problem at universities.

“It doesn’t make it right. It’s a sexual assault, and that’s why the university took action in this matter.”

Doe said in her lawsuit that Pacific’s handling of the matter was hostile, causing her to feel unwanted at Pacific. Doe, a freshman, left the school

I stared at this a good, long, hard time before I could believe what was really in front of my eyes.

Not because I’m surprised that the view is out there.  Please, I’ve had it expressed directly to me with regards to my own rape.  What I’m shocked over is the fact that a university would, seemingly with no shame at all, openly and publicly express such a view.  “Date rape is not rape.”  When I regularly use that example of the man jumping out of the bushes as what many people believe to be the only real rape, some people think that I’m exaggerating.  Quite clearly, I’m not.  As you can see right above, it’s coming out of the mouth of the spokesperson for a university commenting on the school’s handling of a rape on their campus.

This is one of those instances where I feel like taking apart the comments and teasing out the underlying assumptions of the speaker is just pointless.  The rape apologism is just that bleedingly obvious that there’s little I can say.  Those of you reading this already get it; and if you’re reading this and don’t get it, I somehow doubt that I’d be able to convince you.

What I want to point out is not why this man is an asshole, or why students definitely need to get SAFER on their campus — it’s how the general rhetoric surrounding rape upholds this man’s views.  It’s why I frequently put the “date” in date rape in scare quotes.  Because I believe it’s a shitty phrase.

I think that in some ways, the phrase “date rape” has indeed been useful, in the sense of getting out the idea that there’s more than one rape scenario, and it’s not all men jumping out of bushes.  And I also know that some survivors, including a close friend I had once, find it comforting and prefer to use it, rather than just the term rape.  And I have no interest in taking away people’s right to identify and name their experiences as they wish.

But far too many people have taken the concept that there is more than one “kind” of rape and twisted it into a hierarchy.  Yet again, we’re back to the concept of “real” rape and the idea that most rapes don’t deserve the label.  Now, we have two different classes popularly accepted in society — date rape and rape.  Or, it could be said, date rape and real rape.  After all, the “date” modifier is there for a reason.

When rape committed by someone the victim knew is called “date rape” and rape committed by a stranger with a weapon is just “rape,” it’s pretty clear which victims we’re taking most seriously and which perpetrators we’re interested in holding responsible.  When so many people don’t see rape committed without other means of violence or by a friend or boyfriend as real rape anyway, creating these two separate categories is just reinforcing their views.

Which might be why the school felt comfortable publicly taking the position that they did.  They’re really only saying out loud what many are thinking.  The saying is terrifying indeed, but the thinking should really be of no less concern.

h/t Marcella’s Twitter

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{ 16 comments }

1 EKSwitaj May 30, 2009 at 2:55 pm

This is awful, and the spokesman saying, “[i]t’s a social situation”? No, a social situation is when someone doesn’t get the hint that the party’s winding down; a social situation is when you get stuck going to dinner with a group that includes someone you really don’t get along with well. This is a criminal situation.

2 abyss2hope May 30, 2009 at 9:32 pm

I saw this story and hadn’t yet blogged about it. This makes as much sense as dismissing embezzlement as not real theft because it’s a social situation. “It’s not like the accused jumped out of the bushes and robbed the victim.”

People are assaulted and murdered in social situations, but that doesn’t mean those aren’t real assaults and real murders. Yet people who claim to be sensible and logical dismiss most rapes because they are committed within a social context.

3 Ryan May 31, 2009 at 3:05 pm

EKswitaj said it well. This university spokesman is saying something that is simply not accurate. Rape is still a crime when it happens in a “social situation”. Hopefully the University of the Pacific’s failure to take this seriously springs from their shitty attitude alone and that the courts will have a different take on this.

4 UOP grad student June 1, 2009 at 3:51 am

The situation at Pacific involving allegations of rape is tragic and involves multiple victims. Richard Rojo the PR representative for the University has proven himself to be a complete idiot, and so many of us who are students, faculty, and administrators are calling for his immediate dismissal. Although Mr. Rojo had been apparently briefed on how to respond to the reporter, I and others believe he spoke from his own warped understanding of rape and sexual assault. The female student was an alleged victim of sexual assault, however, multiple witness testimony conflicted with her own. Moreover, the female victim was repeatedly encouraged to file criminal charges, and she repeatedly refused. This left the university with limited legal action in dealing with the alleged male assailants. The facts are, one of the alleged male student attackers was expelled permanently, the other two were placed on one and two year leaves, without the cooperation of the alleged victim legally there was little more the University could do. Finally, the University of Pacific policies toward rape and sexual assault are that of zero tolerance, and this incident was handled with immediacy and great sensitivity toward the alleged victim. However, as I stated Mr. Rojo is a complete idiot, and hopefully will be fired, or has been fired already, and does not represent the true feelings of the pacific community that view any form of sexual assault as a reprehensible crime. However, victims have to file charges in order for any university or college to effectively and legally take severe action against alleged assailants.

5 James Landrith June 1, 2009 at 10:01 am

Rojo sounds like an assclown of the highest order with his verbal gymnastics and tortured logic.

The woman who raped me did not jump out of the bushes. She used alcohol and a spiked drink to subdue me. I met her earlier in the evening.

I guess that makes it a “social situation” and not “real rape”.

Ugh. Somedays I just hate people…

6 nordette aka verite June 1, 2009 at 5:38 pm

What! I can’t believe this. I expect this kind of nutty thinking from a Barney Fife sheriff somewhere living in the last millennium, but from someone in a professional position at an education institution it blows my mind.

Not only is it rape, it’s gang rape, and on college campuses it has a name. Guys used to call it “running a train.” Maybe they still do.

The UOP grad student is probably right that Rojo was giving his own definition, but still, it’s sad that someone with a liberal arts education, which is usually what you’d have to have at the least to be a public relations professional, would have such a convoluted understanding of what rape is. It’s equally sad that the young woman refused to press charges, but given some of the antiquated societal attitudes still expressed toward rape victims, I’m not surprised she didn’t want to go to court.

I think you are right. Too many people have created a rape totem pole in their minds. “Out-the-bushes rape” somehow trumps acquaintance rape in their minds and is at the top, and acquaintance rape is at the bottom where they think it sounds “not all that bad.”

7 Sunshine June 1, 2009 at 10:04 pm

“victims have to file charges in order for any university or college to effectively and legally take severe action against alleged assailants”

Filing charges is NOT sufficient. I attend a large, prestigious university, and was flat-out told by the administration that my rape was not considered a serious safety issue for the campus because the rapist did not jump from the bushes. Even though he is a fellow student and the rape happened in a frat house (somehow having the frat just off-campus makes a big difference to the administration – so they can wash their hands of it), and charges WERE laid by the local police, with a trial coming up. I might have to leave school because of the stress it has caused me and have had no support from my school, but the rapist can freely walk around campus with no acedemic penalty. The whole thing is bullshit, and stories like this do not surprise me at all. They do make me ill though…

8 Andrea June 2, 2009 at 6:36 pm

I was a victim of date rape myself. It was my boyfriend at the time who raped me. It took place in my dorm and my university also did not take it seriously and did not consider the incident rape. I had to sit through the rest of that semester in my history class with him sitting 4 rows in front of me in the lecture hall. It is just as serious as “real rape”, there is no hierarchy and I feel sad for those who are blind to that clear fact. He was a person who told me he loved me, who made me feel safe, and then he made me a victim. If that is not “real” rape…than I don’t know what is.

9 Jen June 3, 2009 at 2:36 am

I was wondering about the actual law. It still has to be considered illegal right? So shouldn’t they HAVE to do something?
Also that argument about knowing someone is stupid on so many levels. Most cases of child sexual abuse are by people they know (I believe. I can look up statistics if requested) and what, it’s ‘real’ versus ‘friendly’ sexual abuse? It’s not abuse if you’re next door neighbor does it?
G-d these people make me sick.

10 Linnea June 3, 2009 at 7:57 am

It’s ridiculous that they think that jumping out of the bushes rape is worse than date rape. Frankly, I think it would be at least as disturbing, if not more so, to have someone that you know and possibly trust turn into your worse nightmare than someone you’ve never seen before.

They’re both awful, and denying the awfulness of one makes me think this is a disingenuous protest, because they’re framing the only “real” rape as one that is statistically much less likely. How convenient that they only have to be bothered to care about the far less prevelant type of rape.

11 Elena Perez June 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm

California NOW will be taking action on this issue. We will keep you updated.

12 Cara June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Thanks Elena! I would definitely be interested in any developments.

13 Michelle June 3, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Rape is rape, despite whatever you want to call it! This is just sickening to me. I understand there can be different views on rape, but the law should uphold past personal opinion. The rapists should be punished severely for their transgression on ‘Jane Doe.’
“According to the annual crime report of the Delhi Police, 98 percent of rape victims in the capital knew the accused.”

““These are people who knew each other. … It’s a social situation…”

So because they knew them, its not rape? Its not serious? This is pathetic. Rape is very serious crime that can ruin lives. It needs to be taken seriously as such.

This makes me so mad. Nice blog, btw.

14 R June 4, 2009 at 3:40 am

“Most cases of child sexual abuse are by people they know (I believe. I can look up statistics if requested)”

No that is definitely true. Usu dad or stepdad, sometimes another caregiver.

I think most murders are also by people the victim knows, right?

15 wonderwall June 8, 2009 at 11:47 am

Richard Rojo – the one who made the statements and is Exec Director of Marketing – would be a good person to contact and let him know the extreme error in this thinking.

209-946-2311
rrojo@pacific.edu

16 Wendy July 23, 2009 at 10:00 pm

What? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!!!?? This is abhorrent. I cannot even fathom the faulty reasoning, lack of empathy, and sheer ignorance behind that statement. I am sick to my stomach and disappointed in humanity.

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