*TW: rape, rape culture, police bullshit*
I was raped. I was raped when I was 18 by my boyfriend. On UW-Madison's campus in the summer of 2004. I didn't report it, and I'm glad I didn't.
You see, just yesterday the UW-Madison Police Department released their "Badger Beat"--a monthly newsletter on crime and other goings-on in the Madison campus community. The article was imbued with victim blaming language.
The initial title of the article was, "Shedding The Victim Persona--Staying Safe On Campus." Here is the article in full. I've bolded the problematic parts:
It’s October already, and most of you are starting to get into some semblance of a routine here on campus. Now is the time when all of those pieces start to come together and you finally feel a sense of belonging and routine. As students and staff of the university, all of us play a vital role in making day to day life on campus interesting and fulfilling.
With the university located at the heart of Madison, we are offered a slew of activities and diverse communities to satisfy any interest. Though crime in the city of Madison pales in comparison to others like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Boston, we certainly have our fair share of incidents.
The UW-Madison Police Department conducts intensive patrols throughout campus with the goal of protecting our students and staff from suffering as a victim of crime. However, police can’t be everywhere. Each of us must take a hard line when it comes to ensuring our own safety. The following are some simple tips to help develop a proper mindset:
Don’t travel alone – it’s always a good idea to utilize the buddy system whenever you go out, but especially at night. It is no secret that a higher proportion of crimes against person or property occur at night. The ability for a criminal to hide their intentions under the cover of darkness is too big of an opportunity for them to pass up. By traveling with a trusted friend, you make yourselves a less desirable target.
Travel on well-lit paths – for the same reasons you should travel in groups at night, it is also important to follow the beaten path. In most cases, the beaten path is the brightest path as well. Stay in the light and you rob a would-be criminal of at least one advantage: concealment.
Preplan – know the route to and from your destination. Be familiar with it, and have an alternate route in case of any unforeseen changes. It is a good idea to see the route during the day, and take note of the presence of lighting for travel at night.
Be a hard target – a victim looks like a victim! If you move from one destination to another, and the only thing you recall about the trip is the last text message you received, then there’s a problem. The military calls it 'keeping your head on a swivel' and it’s probably the most important thing you can do to ensure your safety. If you present yourself as easy prey, then expect to attract some wolves. If you make yourself a hard target, one who is aware of their surroundings, you take away two elements of a crime: desirability and opportunity.
Drink responsibly – everyone wants to have a good time and alcohol is sure to be a part of that (if you’re over 21, of course). Know your limits and those of your friends. Don’t be afraid to tell someone “enough is enough.” Have a plan: where are we going to stay? How are we going to get there? Over-consumption of alcohol will quickly make you an easy target."
So, as a survivor this tells me two things: 1). My rape was my fault; and 2). I should never report a rape to the police should it happen again.
I emailed the Media Rep about my concerns and he replied glib and indifferent. Later, I noticed he or someone else discreetly edited the article to remove the exact parts I highlighted without any acknowledgement that the Police Department did wrong.
This article could have easily been called: "How to Not Get Raped." Because really, that's what the content says.
The UWPD assured me that the piece was meant to be "GENDER NEUTRAL" (seriously, they wrote it in all caps), and they said it was meant to reflect safety in "ALL" (again capitalized) crimes. However, NOWHERE in the original article does it say the words "rob" or "theft."
If you're going to write a piece on how to stay safe on campus, you need to consider your audience. You need to think about what your community might say in response to what you write. You need to know and understand your community. You need to anticipate these things. You need to take a goddamn Rape Culture 101 class.
Being a "victim" is something that happens TO us. We cannot make ourselves victims. "Victim" is an identity that no one chooses.
The UW-Madison Police Department makes me glad that I never reported my rape 10 years ago. If their attitudes are so horrid now, I can only imagine what they would have been like back then.