Linguistic Causes of Rape Culture on College Campuses
Lacey Marie Kondos
Virginia Tech, US
I am a senior from Stafford, Virginia majoring in Sociology and Criminology, with a minor in Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. After graduation I will pursue a Masters in Forensic Psychology in hopes of becoming an analyst for a law enforcement agency or the intelligence community. My mentor is Professor Paul Heilker.
Sexual assault is a growing epidemic on college campuses around the nation and universities are struggling to maintain a safe environment for their students. The problem does not lie with the usual suspects—alcohol, fraternity and sorority life, or violent music lyrics. Instead, latent linguistic factors within our dominant language contribute to a hostile environment that we have internally socialized for centuries. Sexually violent humor, including rape jokes, myths, and offensive metaphors, are contributors to this aggressive mentality and normalize it within society. Ambiguous definitions of what constitutes rape and consent make it difficult for victims to decide whether they should report the situation to the police or not and victims are often silenced and shamed for coming forward. Opening a campus-wide conversation about sexual assault and violent language is the first step in breaking down the intangible rape culture that has led to unsafe environments on college campuses.
Keywords: sexual assault; violence; college; rape; language