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Jorgensen: Take a more serious tone on rape

BY MOIRA JORGENSEN | AUGUST 28, 2013 5:00 AM

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Rape is never a funny subject. But, while watching the anti-rape section of the College Expectations class (an online class for incoming students that includes videos and a test on anything and everything involving rape, sexual assault, and the like), I caught myself laughing. Laughing at an anti-rape video.

I like to think that I am not the kind of person who finds pleasure in such things. However, in the case of the College Expectations course, I couldn’t help but laugh. The video was cheesy, fake, and at times so awkward it was embarrassing.

What I learned most from this course is a variety of terms used for sex that I had never heard of before (for example: “punish her”). For something so serious and so common (according to the course, 25 percent of college women are either raped or subjected to an attempted rape) the videos should be something that sticks with freshmen and actually makes them think about the seriousness of rape and sexual assault, instead of how one would use the term “punish her” in a sentence.

I’m not saying UI should get rid of the course entirely. Even though the course feels as if it takes around 40 hours and tends to crash my browser, I applaud the university for trying something to prevent and fight against rape. At the University of Iowa, and many of the nation’s universities, rape and sexual assault are major problems. According to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment for the UI, in the past 12 months, 9.4 percent of women have been involved in sexual touching without consent, 6 percent have been involved in attempted sexual penetration without consent, and 3.5 percent have been sexually penetrated without consent.

However, the tone of the videos they’re showing don’t match the seriousness of this problem. The characters that walk the viewers through the lessons are little more than stereotypical goofballs. There’s the impossibly meat-headed guy who doesn’t understand why he needs to learn about rape because rape is like, such a rare thing, bro. There’s the girl who is constantly shocked and amazed by the facts she’s learning, and then there are the two people patiently explaining the facts of rape to these ignorant young whippersnappers. It’s like watching an after-school special on something trivial, like why you should eat your veggies or ask your parents before you go on the computer.

But the whole video need not be scrapped. One component of the videos that really affected me was when real rape survivors shared their experiences. Unfortunately, these brief segments were continually overshadowed by the long “let’s talk about what rape means” sections and the awkward, repetitive pre-rape scenes that belie how traumatic rape really is. If rape survivors were made a bigger part of the program, maybe sharing the warning signs they missed and how they recovered from it, the program as a whole would be much more effective. Freshmen would think more about the serious emotional and physical consequences that come from rape, as well as how they can prevent and stop it, if the lessons were coming from real women with real experiences instead of actors behaving like cartoon characters.


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