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Panel concerned over lack of rape dialogue

A group of UNC professors is concerned there is a lack of dialogue about rape — and the dialogue that does exist is infected with stereotypes and negative language.

Three professors from a range of disciplines came together to discuss “(How) Can We Talk About Rape?” on Monday afternoon in the third panel of the four-part lecture seriesRAPE: Perceptions, Realties, Responses.”

The speakers included mythological studies professor Druscilla French, whose work with cultural narratives brought a new perspective on rape in society. She discussed issues of labels and blame in communal conversation.

“One could argue blame for either side. If a sexual assault is reported they become labeled as a survivor or predator,” she said.

Journalism professor Barbara Friedman addressed another issue in cultural conversations about rape: those that take place in the media.

Friedman noted how the topic of rape frequently appears in the news, but the media does not always do a good job of creating conversation about rape within the community.

“Media perpetuates rape myths: nice girls don’t get raped, rape is a heterosexual crime,” Friedman said.

She also said media are full of bias and consistently don’t cover cases involving women of color or women of the working class.

The media should be a forum for the victim’s voices, she said.

Friedman referenced the lack of media coverage on the Annual Campus Security Report, which was released Oct. 1, as an example of media’s failures.

“The rate of campus sexual assault was almost double that of last year,” Friedman said. She said that could be because of an increase in reporting.

The third panelist, communication studies professor Kumi Silva focused on backlash culture. She said her students think the feminist movement is dated and that women are now equal.

“We fall into a trap of making everything relative. We compare what is happening in the present to what happened in the past,” Silva said.

She asked if there are still no changes to be made, then why do we encourage women not to walk by themselves in the dark?

Sophomore Olivia Barrett attended the lecture for her women’s studies class.

“It’s always really interesting to realize how normalized rape and sexual assault in our culture,” she said.

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