By Jenn Oswald, Columnist

Culture has formed around the concept of “don’t get raped” rather than “don’t rape.” This concept leaves women to walk home after dark jumping at shadows and planning exactly how her dorm keys could become lethal weapons in a matter of seconds.
While women are learning to fear independent walks home and are constantly educated on safety, “don’t rape” isn’t one of the concepts covered in high school sex-ed classes. Though generally assumed as a lesson, one need not mention aloud the 207,754 reported annual sexual assaults to see that it’s not sinking in. These numbers alone beg for a lesson in respect.
Last semester, in a female-dominated class, the professor worked to rile up the class by proclaiming: “I see all these girls wearing ‘fuck me’ heels – you’re all whores! What was I fighting for in the ‘60’s?”
To my horror, most of the class laughed in response – some nervously, but laughter was the last thing on my mind.
The shoes she wears or the length of a woman’s skirt does not dictate whether or not someone has a right to use any sort of force upon her. They have nothing to do with the stranger whose been hiding out all night waiting for someone to dominate on the route home from the library.
Women should not need to change the way they dress to accommodate a potential attacker’s lack of self-control.
This is where the word “no” becomes the central issue. Bearing in mind that the ability to give consent is present for both parties, any amount of “asking for it” is null as soon as that crucial word exits their lips. That includes if they are intoxicated, have a reputation or are unconscious. The most disgusting part of that is assuming unconsciousness might be considered an exception.
Everyone has heard these same things mentioned a hundred times over, but that doesn’t make the issue disappear. Until it does, we have to keep talking about it.
Here on campus, leaps were taken toward ‘talking about it’ with the recent #HereAtIWU campaign. No matter what your personal reaction was to what was said or how it was shared, the impact and necessity for more active discussion such as that is undeniable.
We make comments about girls being sluts and whores without batting an eye and these are the ideas that our society has formed itself around.
Rather than teaching young men to control their urges, we teach young girls self-defense. Rather than telling boys that alcohol is not an excuse for sexual assault, we tell girls to carry pepper spray and a rape whistle when they go out.
A woman (or man) has a right to say “no,” no matter what. That means even if she said “yes” first.
Until we change ourselves, rather than debate what constitutes an appropriate skirt length for safety, the statistics will keep going up. 44% of victims are under age 18, 54% sexual assaults are not reported to police, and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
These are the facts, and we must make the change in where we point our blame. We need to grow beyond the point where one person can rape another and not realize that they are a rapist because her clothing was “asking for it.”