Guns, Colleges & Rape: Why The Right is Wrong

Rape CultureColorado became the center of the newest national gun discussion last week as their legislature discussed House Bill 13-1226. I’m not going to sit here and debate the pros and cons of gun free zones or of the consequences of arming frightened college students. The real issue that came out of the debate – the unintentional association of two hot button topics – happened when Rep. Joe Salazar (D) said:

It’s why we have call boxes, it’s why we have safe zones, that’s why we have the whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at. And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around, or if you feel like you’re in trouble and when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop… pop a round at somebody.

Salazar has since apologized for his egregiously misstated remarks. While he meant to say that arming college students only increases the chance of accidental shootings, his actual language was both abrasive and counterproductive to the national conversation on both rape and gun control. It opened the conservative floodgates as they began lashing out against his remarks both online and on television talk show interviews. The worst of it though – the origin of the most vitriolic bile from the right – started with the Twitter hashtag “#LiberalTips2AvoidRape.” Mother Jones actually assembled a rather comprehensive assortment of the misogynistic hate from the right in a recent article on the hashtag and its origins.
Out of the original misstatement a conservative argument was born claiming college women need guns to prevent rape. Without citing a single peer-reviewed statistic, politicians like Sen. Jim Banks (R-IN) claimed that guns could basically be the solution to the growing campus rape epidemic. “That’s what’s compelling about this issue, is how many female students there are around the state, who have very specific and real reasons to be afraid for their own safety on their campus,” Banks said to the AP recently concerning legislation in his own state that would allow concealed weapons on campus. “The number of sexual assault cases on campuses is alarming.”
Gun Violence on Campus
The only problem with this guns-to-prevent-campus-rape argument is this: it’s simply not true. 
According to Indiana University (IU) Sexual Assault Services Center counselor Debbie Melloan, guns aren’t the end all answer to campus rape prevention. “Most sexual assaults happen between people who know one another. You’re going to be in a close, kind of private setting…are you going to be willing to shoot the person that is your friend?”
Melanie Payne, IU-Bloomington Director of New Student Orientation agreed. In an interview with Indiana Public Media, she said, “They’re not picturing, you know, a nice, comfortable date that goes wrong, or a group party situation that goes wrong,” Payne said – referencing the most typical instances of campus rape. “When students are not in safe situations, more times than not it has to do with groups of people, and alcohol, and bad decision-making anyway and that’s – I think that’s a recipe for disaster.”
Statistics agree with these two women. According to a Department of Justice study, “Stranger rape of college students is less common than acquaintance rape. Ninety percent of college women who are victims of rape or attempted rape know their assailant.” This same report concluded that an estimated one in four women will be sexually assaulted while they are in college. Even outside of campus rape, in nearly two-thirds of all sexual assaults the victim knows his or her assailant. In fact, as many as 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance. 
Knowing this, the question arises: are conservatives suggesting that women on campus shoot the people they know if they suspect he is being too aggressive in his advances? At what point does it become necessary to shoot your companion? Furthermore, if drugs and alcohol are a component of the situation that resulted in the assault (either on the part of the assailant or the victim), are conservatives suggesting people under the influence use a firearm?
It’s a slippery slope that conservatives shouldn’t be treading down – especially in light of the overwhelming evidence that additional education on campus safety goes much further in reducing sexual assault. In order to validate their claim that women would be raped less on campus if they carried concealed weapons, they would need to argue that women carry guns on dates, to campus parties as they drink (especially as they’re drinking, in fact),  or other situations where the victim wouldn’t otherwise have her guard up. 
Rape prevention and gun control are two very worthy and important discussions. They aren’t, however, discussions that should be overlapped insomuch that one can prevent another. Conservatives already realize that though – otherwise they would’ve expressed more than concern-troll-level outrage before the “#LiberalTips2AvoidRape” began dominating the conversation. Do you want to prevent rape on campus? Talk to your sons and daughters about dating, parties, alcohol consumption and the importance of being aware of your surroundings. Don’t give them a gun and send them to a fraternity party. 
 About Tim Peacock:
For virtually his entire life, Tim has been writing. He’s dabbled in mainstream fiction, science fiction, dystopian fiction, and personal essays over the years. The one consistent thread through his entire writing career has been blogging – he’s been doing it since 1997 in one form or another. In creating Peacock Panache, he’s combined two of his favorite hobbies: blogging and current events/politics. When not working here, Tim toils away at editing & rewriting the novels he’s completed over the years. You can read samples of his other work here.

You can find Tim elsewhere online at his personal website. You can also find him on LinkedIn as well as on Twitter as @timsimms

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.


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