Rape Culture on Campus

By Zach Losher

Communicating/Muting Date Rape: A Co-Cultural Theoretical Analysis of Communication Factors Related to Rape Culture on a College Campus by Ann Burnett, Jody L. Mattern, Liliana L. Herakova, David H. Kahl, Jr., Cloy Tobola & Susan E. Bornsen, attempts to explain rape culture on college campuses. The researchers conducted nine focus groups (five female only, two men only, two male/female mix). These groups were prompted to discuss their attitudes, perceptions or experience of rape by co-researchers. The researchers found that throughout pre- and post-rape situations, potential rape victims are muted, or their concerns are never adequately met because they are not part of the dominant group. The findings are consistent with muted group theory. Furthermore, muted groups form co-cultures that are subordinate to the dominant culture. These co-cultures attempt to navigate their status as subordinates by accommodation, assimilation, and separation.

The nine focus groups consisted of college students attending an average sized Midwestern university. Two of these groups consisted of fraternity members and one contained sorority members. In addition, a mixed group and one all-female group were composed of student athletes. The co-researchers used phenomenological inquiry to gather descriptions of lived experiences and examine essential themes.

The researchers developed a model based on their investigation. The focus groups revealed a general consensus about stranger rape, but researchers found date rape to be ambiguously defined. The model illustrates how societal ambiguity about date rape mutes potential and actual victims. The muting also affects dialogue about date rape and may reinforce cultural norms.

Because victims are muted, they tend to be the ones who are ostracized instead of the perpetrator. This causes many instances of rape to go unreported or uninvestigated, which the researchers suggest strengthens rape myths. These myths help perpetuate the behavior because potential victims are not well informed or they may succumb to peer pressure.

Due to these conditions, the researchers argue that college females make up a co-cultural group that must create awareness and a way of talking about rape in order to change rape culture. They must adopt the communicative strategies of the dominant culture and use these tools to make their needs part of the dominant culture.

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