Social Media and Technology May Change the Culture of Rape on College Campuses

Social Media and Technology May Change the Culture of Rape on College Campuses

Sherri L. Niblett (Delaware Technical Community College, USA) and Melissa L. Rakes (Delaware Technical Community College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2399-4.ch023
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Abstract

This chapter per the authors identifies the problem of rape culture on college campuses, and within the nation, and the idea that social media and technology have not only brought much-needed attention to the issue of sexual assault and violence to the forefront, but it can also serve as a catalyst for college campuses to combat the issue by enlisting the help of its faculty, staff, students, and especially the college's student celebrities. It examines the effect of Social Learning Theory, Differential Association Theory of Deviance, and Feminism as a means to identify faults in our nation's culture, and to use this same method to correct the attitudes of all involved concerning rape culture, bystander intervention, and other aspects of fighting rape culture through the avenue of social media and technology.
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Introduction

In November 1990, the New York Times reported there was a list on the bathroom wall of Brown University warning female students of which male students were considered rapists (Celis III, 1990). Back then, the list was repeatedly scrubbed off by janitors each time the women rewrote it. In recent years, the list became harder to wipe clean as survivors of campus rape took to social media to spread the word of the dangers of sexual assault on college campuses across our nation (Clark & Pino, 2016).

In June 2016, Brock Turner became a household name when he was convicted of raping an unconscious woman, only to be given three to six months in prison when he was facing up to 14 years (Rocha, 2016). The judge in the case stated that sentencing the former Stanford swimmer and student would cause him too much harm. The victim in the case fought back on social media by posting a letter claiming she had been irreparably damaged by Turner’s actions and did not see the justification for leniency in his case. Many people were outraged with the sentencing and demanded the judge be removed for his ruling. The case, however, has once again refueled the question of rape culture and sexual assault on college campuses, a question that can no longer be painted over on a bathroom wall.

According to a 2015 study (Perrin), almost two-thirds of American adults use social networking sites, with 90% of young adults between the ages 18 and 29 using social media at the highest rate. With the prevalence of social media usage among college age students, individuals and organizations have the potential to bring national and sustained attention to sexual violence on campus. Many young adults use multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter, and YouTube among others. These platforms give the user the ability to connect with and influence not only their peers but also the rest of the world. With this power to communicate, comes the opportunity to bring about social change. Organizations dedicated to sexual violence prevention have already begun to develop social media toolkits aimed at eliminating sexual violence on college campuses. These resources combined with the variety of social media platforms available allow individuals to support survivors and take action to end sexual violence.

It is also equally important to acknowledge that social media can be detrimental to sexual violence victims by providing a forum for sharing videos and photos of the assault, trivializing the victim’s experiences, making the victim feel ashamed, or otherwise bullying the victim (Ed.gov, 2013). In these ways, social media can be used to continue to assert dominance and power over the victim. Unfortunately, it is not only attackers using social media in this negative way but also their peers and sometimes the community at large who bullies the victim. It is essential that campuses change the culture that condones attackers and encourages bullying.

This chapter will examine the history of sexual violence on college campuses and provide examples of how social media influence can positively and adversely affect the climate.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Podcast: Audio or video programming that can be downloaded to an automated feed to allow individuals to express their opinions about a great deal of subjects.

Rape Culture: Behaviors are allowed in the climate that promote rape.

Mobile Devices and Video/Image Sharing: Portable phones and devices that allow consistent and convenient video and imaging sharing.

Wiki: A website that people can use to explain a particular subject, but anyone can continue to add, delete, or revise the information.

Sexual Misconduct: Sexual violence and/or harassment; dating/domestic violence.

Blog: An uncensored, electronic journal of information.

Forum: An online site where people can discuss a particular subject by posting messages relaying their own thoughts and opinions.

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