Opinion On Date Rape Causes Uproar

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

American University in Washington D.C. has proudly distributed it's campus newspaper, The Eagle, for over eighty-five years; claiming that the paper is "American University's Independent Student Voice Since 1925". Recently, the paper ignited student voices when it published a piece by staff journalist, Alex Knepper

Knepper, a 20 year old Political Science major, published an opinion column entitled "Dealing with AU's anti-sex brigade." In the article, Knepper exclaimed his disgust for what he described as the campus' "insular, solipsistic view of human sexuality." His comments were in response to student opinions about a Facebook note made by a potential student government body representative. The post contained what campus group Queers and Allies called "sexist, homophobic and explicitly trans-phobic and intersex-phobic remarks". They found the candidates comments disturbing, and voiced concern about his ability to lead the student government. Though the candidate claimed that the post was misinterpreted, the concerns were voiced not only by members of the group, but by others on campus as well.

Knepper's article described the note only briefly before labeling all who were concerned about the comments, "a sniveling bunch of emotional cripples." He continues on to elaborate on his opinions about the current state of Feminism and Gay Activists before claiming the statement below, which caused an uproar of protest from the student body.

"Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger."

The article was read and approved by a student editor, and published in the newspaper on March 28th. In response, the editor received over 75 pieces of mail and numerous comments protesting the opinion column. Someone on campus went as far as collecting the newspaper from various locations, and dropping it in front of The Eagle publishing office with a note proclaiming that the campus had "No room for rape apologists".

The editor of the paper has responded by stating that she chose to publish the piece to "foster an interesting discussion." She also responded in a letter to the student body explaining that the decision to publish the opinionated column does not mean that the paper itself is inline with the journalists views, but they are also not in the business of censorship. "As an editor, I would not feel right to fire or censor a writer who has offended people, because I believe that he has raised questions that warrant discussion."

She has a point; opinions are opinions, and not everyone is going to agree. Freedom of speech is something that is cherished by all facets of society and especially by journalists. The truth should be free and clear to the public.

But how much truth is in that very opinionated statement Knepper made? When rape, especially acquaintance rape, (which accounts for 77% of sexual assault crimes according to the National Center for Victims of Crime), is such a he said-she said crime, to have even one person believe that the victim was asking for it has the potential to cause more harm than good. How are victims supposed to feel if they know even one person believes that they put themselves in a bad position on purpose? Acquaintance rape is also only reported 2% of the time; articles like this could decrease that percentage that even more on a large campus, where the majority of these crimes occur.

Moving back to the freedom of speech discussion, does publishing an opinion like this, simply to encourage interesting discussion, stay inline with the Society of Professional Journalists 2nd point of ethics - that journalists should try to minimize harm? I, for one, do not believe it does. Knepper's opinion is a common one, which is why acquaintance rape remains a largely unreported crime. Victims suffer in silence, rarely get counseling, and have disastrous and troubled relationships following such assaults. How many journalists have published articles regarding surviving sexual assault, the importance of reporting the crime, and, above all, a person's right to refuse sexual contact, no matter what the circumstance.

By Tuesday, a group of students delivered a message to The Eagle demanding that they fire Knepper, and issue an apology for the insensitive comments. What will ultimately happen remains to be seen. In my opinion, Mr. Knepper should remember his comments regarding submission and acquaintance rape being an "incoherant concept" should he ever find himself at a party, under the influence of too much alcohol, and being led back to a strangers room for who knows what.

2 comments:

Michelle Pohlad April 5, 2010 at 6:55 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Pohlad April 5, 2010 at 6:57 PM  

Excellent article, Staci. You make some very good points. I agree with everything you said. Yes, we must protect our First Amendment rights and Alex Klepper has the right to express his opinions, but his comments are not that of a responsible, ethical journalist. Therefore; the paper should not have him on the staff as a "journalist".

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