Feminists make demands of UF
March 1997

What follows is Jennifer Bruce's introduction to the UF/SFCC Campus Naitonal Organization for Women's speak out against rape and sexual harassment, held at UF on January 29. NOW distributed demands, also, which are reprinted below.

Hi, my name is Jennifer Bruce and I am chair of the Rape Action Committee, a committee developed in 1992 by members of the National Organization for Women to organize and take political action to stop rape and harassment. I am here as an organizer and as a victim of rape, and I am here to tell you that Campus NOW does not believe that rape is an education problem, it's not a problem of safety or communication. Men do not need to be taught the difference between consensual sex and rape, men who rape do so because they know they can get away with it, and the university can put blue light phones and stadium lights in every corner but women will still be raped. Rape is not sexual; it's sexist. It is the result of the power imbalances between men and women. I was raped, along with the other women here to speak, because a man had the physical, social, and mental power to rape me and get away with it. We, as women are the experts on rape and are here today to speak out against rape and allow other women to do the same. To quote Judith Brown, co-founder of Gainesville Women's Liberation, "Speaking out is still the most revolutionary act of our time."

Rape happens every day and everywhere. Rape happens at parties, on dates, by a husband, a boyfriend, an acquaintance, or a stranger. Do you realize that 1 out of every 4 women here on this campus will be raped before they graduate? And that about 85% of those rapes will be by someone the victim knows? Not by some stranger jumping out of the bushes with a knife, or by a serial rapist like Danny Rollings, but by someone you know and possiby trust. This is the reality--rape happens--more than the UPD or the university would like to admit. ...

Many rapes go unreported each year and people wonder why women are reluctant to report their rapes. The fact is there are real repercussions women face when they report their rapes. To quote a UF Police Officer leading a 1991 Men's Only Rape Forum held at UF, "Approximately 50% of the rapes reported are false. The girls are trying to get back at someone, some girls are emotionally unstable. . . So that's the reality of false reports, something you always have to keep in mind. You might want to sign a contract before you make love. Women see a way to get something that they want, and they're going to use it." Now how many of you would come forward to the police, the same police that I just quoted from, and report a rape if you were scrutinized and degraded with questions like, "What were you wearing? How short was your skirt? How much did you drink? Were you flirting with him? Have you ever slept with him before? Did you fight him off? Why did you go in his bedroom? Don't you know better?" Probably not. Not only do these questions make women feel responsible for their own rape, but it also brings to light the contradicting messages women get about how to dress. The police ask us how tight our clothes are and then UF's Florida Blue Key pays us thousands of dollars in scholarship money at the Miss UF Pageant to wear them. In addition, I have every right to be promiscuous if I want; I have every right to wear tight clothes or flirt with a man; and I have every right to sleep with whomever I want, and that is my choice. He has no right to rape me if he "just can't stop" or thinks that "I really wanted it." No means no, that's all there is to it.... There are no excuses, so STOP RAPING.

When I first came to the University of Florida three and a half years ago, my dorm was plastered with flyers from the UPD telling women not to go to fraternity parties, not to walk alone at night, and not to let strangers into the dorm. This approach does two very important things. First, it puts the responsibility of rape on the women, and by not holding men responsible for rape this sends the message to men that rape is a condoned act that can be done without severe punishment. Therefore, preserving male privilege on campus. If a man is never punished for raping and a woman always held responsible for being raped, what incentive do men have to stop raping?

When I was 14 years old I went camping with some friends. We were drinking, having a good time. And there was this older guy, about 17 years old, who was very cute and popular and actually showing interest in me. I thought that I must have had something special to attract a guy like this. So throughout the night we talked, he made me drinks, and we were flirting a lot. That night we kissed, and at 14 that's all I was ready for. But I guess he had other things on his mind. I had passed out in one of the tents and I later woke up to find him on top of me; having sex with me. Having sex with a passed out 14 year old girl. I didn't know how to fight him off and I was too drunk and confused to say no, or stop. All I could think about was how could I let this happen. How could I let him steal my virginity, my dignity. And how could he not care that I didn't want to sleep with him. I remember passing out again during the middle of it. And the next morning when I woke up, I remember feeling terrible pain, I felt ripped open. When I realized what had happened, I tried to talk to him and he wouldn't even acknowledge me. At the time I thought it was somehow my fault, that I was some kind of slut. And slut was exactly what I was called when what had happened had got around school. It was all over my junior high and his high school. People had made up stories about me, they were making jokes about me. My best friend's mother wouldn't let her daughter even hang around me because her older brother came home from high school one day and told his mother what he had heard about me. She wasn't allowed to hang around someone like me. Eventually the rumors stopped but people still remembered.

I tried to forget about it and I did a pretty good job of it until I got to college. It took until my freshman year here at UF to realize that what had happened to me was rape. I grew up thinking that if a woman got that drunk then she basically deserved what would happen. I actually thought that I deserved to get raped.

Now I know that I sure as hell did not deserve what he did to me.

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