Column: Change the discussions regarding rape culture and college life

Brigit Benestante

It seems that in the news lately, there has been a budding discussion about rape. With the accusations against Bill Cosby and the suspension of Greek life at the University of Virginia amid several allegations, the conversation seems more open now than ever before.

What is surprising about these recent developments is that they are not recent at all — Bill Cosby’s accusations go as far back as the 1960s, and the UVA allegations date back to earlier than 2010. We’ve reached a turning point in the discussion of rape and sexual violence. Whether the allegations are true in either case, their high-profile status has given new life to discussions that were often ignored or skipped over.

But in the wake of these developments, it is important to ask: Why now? This isn’t a new problem, and, unfortunately, allegations like the ones at UVA are commonplace.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, one out of every six women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. According to the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, one in 20 women are sexually assaulted in college. There were 18 reported cases of forced sexual assault on UT campus in 2012, and two UT football players were suspended this year after accusations rose against them. 

The UVA case, however, is gaining national attention not because of the rape allegations, but because of the school’s decision to suspend Greek life until January. 

Although the school’s public action may contribute to the national conversation surrounding college campuses and rape, the discussion should not be restricted to only party and rape culture.

A lot of the discussions place rape culture and party culture hand-in-hand — and while this is sometimes true, rapes are not confined to the inside of a fraternity house or an apartment party. The discussion needs to go further: It needs to address rape allegations as a whole, not as a symptom of partying. 

Although the Cosby allegations — if true — are terrible, they are paving the way for people to stop brushing rape allegations under the rug. The plight of Cosby’s demise is making it OK for victims to come out against their aggressors, even if they are famous and powerful. 

One good thing that came out of the controversies surrounding Cosby and UVA is that they have the power to change the way we talk about and approach rape allegations. Students have the responsibility to take that power and make a change — a change that will stop rape from being put on the back burner. We can’t let rape be another topic whose 15 minutes of fame will eventually pass.