American University Erupts Over Date Rape

Photo: American University Erupts Over Date Rape: Girls Who Drink and Go to Frat Parties Deserve Date Rape, Says Student Newspaper Columnist

Today begins Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention month -- and American University is in an uproar over an anti-feminist diatribe in the student newspaper charging that some women who survive date rape invited it.

"Let's get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI [fraternity] party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy's room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK?" columnist Alex Knepper, 20, wrote in the Eagle, the school paper.

"To cry 'date rape' after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone's head and then later claiming that you didn't ever actually intend to pull the trigger," he said.

The column -- "Dealing With AU's Anti-Sex Brigade" -- sparked a backlash and nearly 300 online comments on the newspaper's Web site, chastising the Eagle for being "open-facedly offensive" and publishing a "slap in the face to so many women, and men, in our generation."

Students bombarded the Eagle's office, gathering the March 28 issue from dispensaries and stacking them outside the door. More protests were planned today as letters to the editor poured in to the newspaper.

Others from American's Community Action for Social Justice Coalition (CASJC) hung a sign: "No room for rape apologists."

Knepper, an openly gay political science major and a two-year columnist with the Eagle, is known as a provocateur, according to CASJC member Drew Franklin.

"It's not typical of what you see at American, a very liberal school, but it is typical of Alex," he said. "This sparked a lot of outrage. It's a pretty big deal on campus."

Franklin, 22, and an audio production major, said he wasn't protesting Knepper's ideas, but rather the platform the newspaper gave the writer for "hate speech."

The Eagle has since apologized.

"They crossed the line when they marginalized survivors of sexual assault," he said.

One in six women will survive sexual assault in her lifetime, and college-age women are four times more likely to be victims than others, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Only about a third of all rape victims report these crimes and about 73 percent know their assailants.

About 90 percent of college women who are victims know their assailants -- usually a classmate, friend, boyfriend, ex-boyfrend, or other acquaintance, according to 2006 statistics from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Department of Justice.

Most acquaintance rape victims do not label their assault as rape, perhaps because they know the assailant, and often initially blame themselves.

Advocates worry about rhetoric like Knepper's because when women blame themselves they are less apt to report these crimes. Survivors are also more susceptible to eating disorders, drug abuse and post traumatic stress disorder, according to RAINN.

The issue of consent is at the heart of the crime.

"It's not your fault," said Katherine Hull, spokesman for RAINN. "Even if you drink and wear short skirts -- that is not consent."

Provocative Dress Is Not Consent

"Even if a woman gave consent previously, it does not mean consent for right now," she said. "Dressing provocatively is not an invitation for sex or rape, even with alcohol."

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