Indiana Daily Student

The need for autonomy

I was browsing the news when I stumbled upon a three-month old article in the Washington Post about sexual assault on college campuses.

The story, written by George F. Will, seemed critical of how colleges have become hypersensitive to the idea of “victims” and are branding people as victims too much.

I read a column by Jeffrey Toobin called “Wife-beating is not a private matter.” Toobin gives two cases of domestic violence where the men who beat up their wives do not receive any significant legal punishments.

My initial response to both was immediate repulsion.

But the more I thought about the two together, the more unsettled I felt about their arguments, since they both seemed so eager to give the victims of each crime overt amounts of individual agency, ignoring the fact that most victims of violent crimes are not the ones to blame for said violence.

Will gives an example of sexual assault taken from a Philadelphia Magazine report about Swarthmore College, where a woman reported she’d been raped six weeks after an unwanted sexual encounter in which her ex-boyfriend insisted she have sex with him until she relented.

It was apparent Will was skeptical about such cases of reported rape.

He argued that “academia is learning ... to create victim-free campuses — by making everyone hypersensitive, even delusional, about ?victimizations.”

Toobin said he is dissatisfied with how the aggressors of domestic violence served such little legal consequences.

He argues, “When husbands beat up their wives, that is not a matter that should be resolved within the family. It is a crime to be resolved by the legal system.”

He said he firmly believes that “it’s not up to victims to decide whether their husbands should be prosecuted. Abusers damage the community, not just the women they assault.”

Indeed, the rape case Will brought up is not what people imagine the actual crime to be.

But if the victim perceived it as non-consensual there is no delusion or hypersensitivity here to the idea of victimization. The woman was clearly a victim.

When Toobin said domestic violence damages the community, he is neglecting the real victim — the actual sufferers of the abuse.

If it is really not up to the victim how his or her abuser is to be punished, especially when it is his or her spouse and family, then this seems unjust. By leaving matters completely up to the legal system, the victim has no say — no agency.

Both men argue that in each situation, the victim has copious amounts of individual choice, that they choose to stay with their abusers or rapists, that they allow these things to happen.

These ideas are wrong in more ways than I can count, and we need to stop these damaging conceptions of ?victimization.

To blame them for wanting to bring their abusers to justice is simply not OK.

Battered women are not byproducts of an abuser’s or rapist’s own personal problems. They are wholly individual, wholly separate people who need to be able to speak.

In some cases, we cannot change what has already occurred. However, one is always entitled to autonomy.

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