I was once raped by an educated man. He knew a lot about sociology, philosophy, and medicine. He was also a misogynist who harbored a secret internal hatred for women which he hid very well from all those around him. It wasn’t any more or less traumatic because he was so educated. It wasn’t any more or less shocking to me because we were both studying to be doctors at the time. It was what all trauma is: Brutal and Terrifying and Life changing. When you know you’re in a position so powerless that you might be killed, education and institutional prestige are of little concern. But in the days and months and years that follow, you cannot be truly healed until you find your voice and tell your story in whatever form it is that your story needs to be told. When our society priveleges the stories of certain survivors over others (what of men, prisoners, spousal rape survivors?) it keeps us from healing as quickly as we should. I am glad the voices of certain surivors from Ivy League schools are being heard to the extent they are (I don’t delude myself into thinking things are great for them), but we cannot ignore the voices of so many others. We have a story to tell too.
There’s been a lot of media coverage of the campus rape epidemic lately. Which is a good thing. There’s been an outcry against George Will’s op-ed piece questioning the validity of a lot of these rapes and talking about the privileges attached to being a rape survivor. Also a good thing. But if you read the majority of these articles, you’d think rape and a lack of appropriate administrative response by universities only occurred at elite schools. It wasn’t until I was about a dozen articles in that I even knew a medical school, WVSOM ( West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine), was one of the 55 schools under federal investigation for failing to handle reported rapes appropriately. The only reason it got a mention in the article was the fact it was a lesser known school and I got the impression that the point the writer was making was that it’s a lot more shocking that rape victims get treated badly at an Ivy League school than at one of those lesser known schools.
What’s the logic there? Do people in the Ivy League have higher moral standards than us commoners ? Is the upper class known for its devotion to women’s rights? More importantly, regardless of how surprised you are with the Ivy League’s mistreatment of sexual assualt victims (as opposed to those low brow schools where you just expect people to get raped and then harassed by the administration apparently), does that mean that the voices of the men and women at the other 45 schools don’t deserve to be heard as well? Is it any less an outrage when it happens to someone at a lowly osteopathic med school? It’s a lot of questions and I’m sure you can tell how I would answer them, but I’d really like to hear how these journalists would answer them. I know no one is truly unbiased, but can’t they at least pretend, make some kind of effort to appear to give a damn about the rest of us?
When I mentioned the news about WVSOM to some of my fellow residents, they were genuinely shocked. Not only could they not believe a medical school would treat a student who’d been raped poorly, they honest-to-goodness couldn’t fathom the idea that medical students would rape one another. They really just couldn’t comprehend the idea of one of our kind being a sexual predator. Am I the only one bothered that our culture is promoting these kinds of ideas?
It is shocking someone from the Ivy League would rape. It is shocking someone studying to become a doctor would rape. Okay, then who is it that we expect to rape? Apparently we expect uneducated people to rape. I guess the idea is that education is a humanzing process? But rape is, in essence, a very human act. One of the most human acts really. Rape is about anger and the need to control, something every level of society has demonstrated since civilization began. Is it really so difficult to think that Ivy League men, so used to privelege and control, might not have a need to control Ivy League women too? Do medical school admission commitees really get a feel for how angry an applicant is? Unless they’ve been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, probably not. (And if you’ve ever been in an OR with an instrument-hurling surgeon, you might question if anger in and of itself is a generally discouraged trait in the world of medicine)
I don’t suppose we’ll ever be as upset with the death of innocent civilians overseas as we will be with the death of innocent civilians in America. Maybe we’ll always mourn more for caucasian, suburban school children shot than we do for african-american inner-city kids killed likewise. But, I hope for better days. And I work for better days. My name is Elizabeth Spaar and I was raped in medical school. Yes, our kind do indeed do that kind of thing. Of course, it was an osteopathic school, so maybe you’re unimpressed.