Oluwa Jones '15 Staff Writer
“We have, we had, on this campus last semester three cases of young women who after having done whatever they did with young men and then it didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to turn out, guess what they did? They went to public safety and said, ‘He raped me.’ “ These are the words of Lincoln University President Robert R. Jennings at the university’s all-women convocation last September. This man is a virulent misogynist; his remarks are inexcusable and serve only to make it even more difficult for victims to come forward. The trustees of Lincoln University should force him to resign, issue an apology to survivors of sexual assault, and donate a large sum of money to the women’s rights group of their choice.
Jennings, who has since apologized, accused women at the Historically Black College and University of making false rape accusations in order to get revenge on men who rejected them. The entire speech lasts 26 minutes and has gone viral this month. According to the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, alegedly only 2 to 8% of rape accusations are false. Victims of sexual assault don’t come forward out of fear they will not be believed or that they will be blamed for their assailant’s actions. Additionally, one in five women will be raped some time in their life. His speech is especially heinous when one considers the fact that there were women in that room who are survivors that are now even more unlikely to come forward.
“When you allege that somebody did something of that nature to you, you go to jail. I don’t care how close they are to finishing the degree, their whole life changes overnight. Why am I saying all this, ladies? I’m saying this because, first and foremost, don’t put yourself in a situation that would cause you to be trying to explain something that really needs no explanation had you not put yourself in that situation.” In this quote Jennings says the “ladies” are at fault for ruining the lives of their rapists when they should never have put themselves in that position. In his apology he claims to have been speaking about “personal responsibility.”
This is rape culture. According to Women Against Violence Against Women, this term refers to cultures in which rape and sexual violence is common, and “prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse or encourage sexualized violence.” His comments are a part of a larger societal trend of blaming and shaming survivors, so that rape can continue.
Jenning’s remarks are common. Most people believe that rape victims are lying. This is what Susan Estrich has called “the myth of the lying woman,” which is the “most powerful myth in the tradition of rape law.” As noted by Leslie Cannold, “In the United States…convictions for rape are lower than for other serious crimes in part because juries insist on more corroboration than in trials involving other serious crimes, and typically see rape victims as less credible…and the male accused as innocent.” Most people believe that women stand something to gain from falsely accusing someone of rape. But women who come forward are often punished in many ways. Furthermore, much of the evidence of an assault comes down to first-person accounts, or “he said-she said.” People are more willing to believe the man, since women are thought to be devious liars. As Jennings mentions, women are raised to avoid rape, so when it happens, people wonder what she failed to do, rather than acknowledge that rape can be avoided. It happens to women across all races, classes and stages of life.
According to Caroline Heldman, colleges such as Lincoln University benefit from covering up rape. Heldman states, “If more survivors spoke out, schools would have to provide more staff resources to handle the complaints and, at the same time, the allegations would threaten the school’s reputation and bottom line.” College have very clear rules regarding expulsions for academic dishonesty, but when it comes to rape, colleges choose to handle each case individually. As Heldman notes, this leads to “biased investigations and adjudication processes that resulted in light sanctions for athletes, student leaders, perpetrators with donor parents and perpetrators who threatened to sue the college.”
There are things we can do in our society to eliminate rape. There’s nothing encoded in male sexuality that forces them to rape women. There are societies in which rape is largely non-existent. I support the protestors at Lincoln College and hope they find success in removing him as the president of the university. No one should have to attend a university in which the president so blatantly supports institutionalization of victim shaming.