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Rape Culture: The Bystander

Woman Speaking



“Rape culture is the system of cultural support and social belief that legitimize and normalize sexual violence in its myriad forms,” renowned Professor Dr. Carrie Rentschler said when she spoke at Edgewood in late March about the growing problem of rape culture.

She defined rape culture as “the system of cultural support and social belief that legitimize and normalize sexual violence in its myriad forms.”

Rentschler, an Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar of Feminist Media Studies at McGill University, focused her lecture on the bystanders of campus rape and their role in pushing for change. March’s lecture comes at a time when Edgewood is dealing with its own issues of rape culture. When asked if this lecture was planned in light of recent events at Edgewood, Lauren Lacy – Associate English Professor and Director of Women and Gender Studies at Edgewood – said that this lecture was arranged well before the incidents had taken place on campus. She said that she was looking for a more thoughtful way for students and faculty to discuss issues.

Further highlighting the importance of Rentschler’s topic on rape culture is the last Friday night sexual assault of a UW-Madison student near the Memorial Union at about 10 p.m. The alleged survivor says that she was held down by three men and threatened with a knife.

Police are seeking any and all information about the case, and encourage those with information to call (608) 264-COPS to aid in the investigation.

Rentschler spoke in detail about the bystanders of rape culture – those present to instances of the culture but staying silent – as being central to the spread of such behavior. “Assuming everyone has the capacity to act in any situation, bystanding is not a failure to act, but it implies the capacity to act more effectively. If the bystander acts with no efficiency, then they can also be classified as the perpetrator.”

One tool that a bystander can use to help the victim of assaults is to record the event with their phone. “Mobile phones are key safety devices, and the media is a weapon for justice,” Rentschler said. She went on to say how the university life has taken hold of this culture of violence, and she showed a series of photos and videos of scenes from various universities demonstrating the practice of glorifying rape. Click here to view the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IUQsrmWkrU

Another tool that this generation can use is social media. Rentschler believes that the internet can be a place to hold people accountable for their actions. It has to be used in the proper way though. Far too often social media is used as a model of exposing victims and perpetrators alike, rather than for bringing justice.

Rentschler’s Recommended Apps:

  • Hollaback!, Not Your Baby – This App allows user to instantly report instances of harassment, and report who is harassing them to other users on the network.
  • Circle of 6 – This app lets other users know if you are in need of help. Simply tap twice on the app’s circle button, and the user’s circle of friends will know where they are and that they’re in distress.
  • Companion: Never Walk Home Alone – Users are able to turn this app on while they walk home, and if they’re in danger an alarm will be triggered. If the alarm is not deactivated within 15 seconds, local police will be notified of the location of the possible disturbance.
  • BSafe – This app lets friends and family monitor a user’s travel via GPS, and an alarm will be sounded if they are in danger. Another feature is that users can set a expected arrival time on their app, and if they do not check in within a certain time limit, their friends and family will be notified of their absence.
  • Watch Over Me – Watch Over Me expands on the time limited check in system of BSafe. Users select an amount of time they want the app to track their movements for, and if they do not turn the alarm off before that time runs out then their family and friends will be notified.
  • OnWatch OnCampus – This app is the catch all app for fast calling of campus security or local police. Users can request friends watch their back as they travel, they can notify their friends of emergencies, they can call all of their friends and police instantly, dial 911, and even contact the offices of their campus’ security.

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