If you’re Gen Z like myself, you’re familiar with cancel culture. For those less familiar, cancel culture is engaging in mass protest, or “canceling,” of an individual, group or event as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.
For example, Ellen DeGeneres was canceled for creating a toxic workplace environment. Shane Dawson was canceled for making racist comments in some of his YouTube videos. Jeffree Star was canceled for offensive product names.
Cancel culture is a tricky subject. Celebrities and events have been “canceled” over small misunderstandings or tedious details. Everyone has something to say about cancel culture. Love it, hate it or don’t care, it’s ever-present, online and in real life with celebrities and regular folks — and it gets annoying.
But who’s to say cancel culture can’t be put to good use? I think cancel culture could be beneficial in combatting and speaking openly about the toxic rape culture of our society. Instead of seeing sexual assaults in the news and being dissatisfied with outcomes, it’s time to cancel rape culture.
Sexual assault by the numbers
Women between the ages of 18-24 who are in college are at a higher risk of sexual assault than other women, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. College women between those ages are three times more likely to be assaulted than the general women population.
While RAINN reports that 13% percent of all students experience rape or sexual assault, the reported percentage of undergraduate women across the U.S. who experience rape or sexual assault is 26.4%. This percentage may seem small, but it means that about one out of five women pursuing their undergraduate degree will be or have already been sexually assaulted.
Can you think of five friends or peers who are women? According to these statistics, at least one of them is likely to have been sexually assaulted.
In 2020, there were three reported rapes at the University of Georgia that were proven true, according to UGA crime statistics. There were two reported sexual batteries that were proven true. However, there were zero arrests made for the rape cases and one arrest for a sexual battery case.
In 2019, there were 12 reported rapes and 15 sexual batteries proven to be true. There were zero arrests. In 2018, there were nine reported rapes that were proven true. There were seven reported sexual batteries that were proven true and there was one arrest.
In 2017, there were 16 reported rapes and 9 sexual batteries, proven to be true. There were zero arrests. In 2016, there were 17 reported rapes and 11 sexual batteries, proven to be true. There was one arrest.
Is the pattern becoming clear? Women are being sexually assaulted and the perpetrators are not being held accountable for their actions. Victims of these crimes are having their lives turned upside down and are not receiving closure nor proper reparation.
Gen Z is the most combative and vocal generation when it comes to mental health and injustice. Rape culture is creating negative headspaces in sexual assault victims, filed with the very things we oppose.
Unfortunately, proving a rape or sexual assault can be legally difficult. Even more difficult for the survivors is explaining their experience to the proper authorities to prove it, often triggering post-traumatic stress. Reviewing their experience can be gut-wrenching.
According to RAINN, only 20% of female survivors in our age group report their assault to the police. Looking at the data from UGA police crime statistics, the rate at our school appears even lower.
Rape culture in practice
A striking example of this is described in an article published by The Red & Black in 2018. After a party one night, a female UGA freshman was sexually assaulted and too intoxicated to properly give consent. Moreover, she was taken advantage of after refusing sexual contact.
According to the article, the victim dealt with anxiety after her assault and regularly attended therapy sessions. She also dropped one of her classes.
Although her assailant admitted to the assault via text messages four days after the incident and during the investigation, he was not held appropriately accountable for his actions. He was still allowed to participate in classes and extracurricular activities on campus.
Lisa Anderson, founder of Atlanta Women for Equality, described the result of this case as a “freebie first rape.” His reparations consisted of academic probation for the duration of his college career and taking a sexual assault and alcohol training course.
He was asked to write a personal statement on what he learned about the effect of drugs and alcohol on the ability to consent.
The University System of Georgia’s Title IX Disciplinary Action determines the severity of corrective actions in several categories. These include frequency, severity, nature of the offense, conduct history, offender’s acceptance of responsibility, previous institutional response to similar conduct, the strength of the evidence and wellbeing of the university community.
The panel must have figured that given he was a freshman first offender, and that he was willing to accept responsibility, he did not deserve the full penalty despite the severity of his actions.
Canceling rape culture
What about his victim? Her life is changed forever. Saying sorry or writing an essay doesn’t fix the damages. She walks around campus with a cloud looming over her head. She isn’t as confident as she once was. She worries and constantly looks over her shoulder. She gave up pursuing legal action because it was too much to bear.
She is not the only one. Remember the statistics: one in five. Countless other women on campus share her fears and horrifying experience. If this is the best sexual assault reports can do to give these women justice, why would offenders think twice when they assault women on campus?
While the legal barriers to justice are immovable, we have the tools to bring about the end of rape culture. Society needs to implement better education on consent, how to report incidents and how to protect yourself in the event of an assault.
We also need to refuse acceptance of this behavior in polite society. We’re “canceling” people for less.
I know that UGA, among other institutions, has courses on alcohol and sexual encounters, including what consent looks like, but college students think they know everything. They’re not spending the time reading through the content of the courses for a refresher – or their first lesson – on consent. As students, we need to be active participants in our education, including sexual encounters.
Rape culture makes it so that the victims live in shame and fear, while the abusers and rapists move on unscathed. It’s time for this social injustice to end. Cancel rape culture.