As Lady Gaga’s voice soared with emotion while performing “Til It Happens to You,” her song from “The Hunting Ground” (co-written with Diane Warren), masses of young women along with some men strode out on-stage with their forearms extended to reveal words of victimhood imprinted on them. Most disturbing was the word “survivor” recalling the term commonly associated with victims of the holocaust. Possibly lost on under-educated people below the age of 60 was the symbolism of that forearm, the site of numbered tattoos forcefully stamped on prisoners of Auschwitz and other concentration camps by Nazi exterminators. Tears could be seen in the eyes of the sensitive audience and defiance in Gaga and her gang as they represented the latest p.c. special interest group - Victims of Campus Rape. But there is zero similarity between that experience and the horrific plight of holocaust survivors subjected to starvation, torture, sadistic experiments and the most brutal modes of murder.
Current estimates are that one in five college students will experience campus rape. If you’re thinking of an assault in a dark alley by an unknown male brandishing a weapon or threatening violence, think again. According to statistics compiled by Campus Safety Magazine, 43% of victims have consumed excessive alcohol while a scorching 90% of “acquaintance rape” involves that substance. 84 % of women victims are freshmen or sophomores - under age for any alcohol consumption, much less binge drinking. And 38% of college victims are women who claim to have been victimized before, making this the best predictor for any campus rape. Male aggressors who have consumed alcohol are held legally responsible for their actions; females who report that they were too drunk to give consent are foolishly exempt from responsibility for that condition. While no one disputes that in the trendy, free-wheeling lifestyle of many campuses some violent rapes occur, a more common scenario is a young girl who knows and may like her partner but has drunk too much to be in control of herself and later regrets being taken advantage of.
Though one can be compassionate towards a young woman who has put herself in harm’s way, glorifying her victimhood obviates the more important lesson of self-empowerment and personal responsibility. Being a victim is not a badge of honor. Nor is survivor ever the correct term for those of the 38% of women who allowed themselves to be vulnerable to a repeated acquaintance rape . The current craze for elaborate consent forms for every stage of seduction is a doomed approach to controlling sexual activity among adolescents and young adults. The overriding message we should send to young women on campus is the same we give to all drivers: Alcohol is a dangerous substance; when abused, it leads to accidents and lethal outcomes. Since women are overwhelmingly more likely to be raped than men, this may be the most important warning we can give to freshman co-eds who do have agency and must exercise it in their own behalf.
As for inked forearms on survivors, we should let that category remain a solemn and unique reminder of the heinous murder of six million innocent Jews. It’s disgraceful to trivialize it by conflation with lesser causes.
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