In a recent interview with the New York Times, Donna Rotunno, Harvey Weinstein’s lead defense attorney, said that she had never been sexually assaulted. Rotunno followed this up, however, with an extremely controversial statement, saying that the reason she hasn’t been assaulted is because she would never put herself in that position.
Rotunno explained by saying that in college, she would watch what she drank and consciously chose not to go home with strangers. I believe that this statement weakens both her image as a lawyer and Weinstein’s attempt to plead not guilty in his trial. More generally speaking, however, her comments exude an energy of socially-taught misogyny.
After a booming #MeToo movement in the late 2010s, you’d think this stigma would not be tolerated by now. However, Rotunno’s unapologetic statement shines a light on the continuous victim-blaming in rape culture.
Comments like these hurt innocent women by piling blame on things like their clothing choices or their willingness to have sex. This effectively falls under a disgusting umbrella of slut-shaming and hinders productivity in prosecuting the actual rapists.
Consent should be far from a debate or “grey area,” but it’s easy to admit that women can be scared to decline sexual advances due to the fear of physical and mental repercussions. Men in power, like Weinstein, have the ability to ruin careers and monetary livelihoods.
Powerful men aren’t exclusively found in explicit places of power. Societal hierarchies in places such as frat houses and intramural sports have the ability to destroy the reputations of victims within their own campuses—areas that should be safe.
Colleges see the most rape cases and typically only offer weak solutions. We see this within our own university, especially in LSU’s newly-released 2018-2019 Campus Climate Survey results.
Taking into account the early 2019 stalking cases, the survey revealed 70% of female students and 74% of transgender students felt a sense of fear at least once in a while. Meanwhile, 65% of male students chose the “never fear for their safety on campus” option.
Students even shared personal experiences of sexual assault on campus, including the very limited repercussions that their rapists face. The University offers a self-defense class at its student recreation center. Other than that, there has been no effort made to stop the actual root of the problem: sexual predators.
It’s time to stop putting the expectation of preventing rape on the women themselves. Instead, society needs to take responsibility in not only teaching consent but also enforcing imperative actions against those who violate it. A first offense shouldn’t be seen as an accident or a warning, but should be seen as what it is: a criminal act.
Gabrielle Martinez is a 19-year-old mass communication freshman from Gonzales, Louisiana.