TRIGGER WARNING: The following article will discuss sexual assault and/or violence which may trigger survivors.
We hear it all the time. “Consent is mandatory,” and “no means no,” and even, “they were not asking for it.” When we talk about sexual assault and harassment, the conversation always ends up somewhere along the lines of “just don’t do it.”
All of these points are undoubtedly valid.
But what if a survivor never said no? What if the survivor did not say anything until a few days after? What if the perpetrator has money, and is known as “the nice guy” on campus and the survivor is shy, and known as a loner? What classifies as rape? Assault? Harassment? How do outsiders, the people invested in the situation, know what to call the situation when the survivor herself does not know?
The novel Wrecked by Maria Padian, explores many variants of these questions by focusing on rape culture across college campuses. More often than not, the reality that these situations unfold in, deviates from simplistic factors.
The story is told from two points of view: those of Haley and Richard. Haley is Jenny’s roommate, the survivor in the book, and Richard is Jordan’s acquaintance, the perpetrator. Haley and Richard, who just started dating, are instantly thrown into the whirlwind of the situation, and sometimes along the way, find each other at opposite ends.
When Jenny tells Haley that she was violated, Haley does not know what to do. While taken aback, she still asks Jenny what she needs before proceeding further. Haley becomes Jenny’s confidant and does her best by trying to help her as the book progresses, but their relationship is tested by many events.
The relationship between Jenny and Haley is reflective of how we, as outsiders and advocates for survivors, react to these situations that are not ours. When a person becomes an advocate, friend or confidant of a survivor, they can begin to feel invested in the situation. However, this can develop into the confidant taking control over what the survivor should do.
Haley begins to do exactly that; she tries to be the messenger for Jenny, and even talks to their university’s lawyer on her behalf. She suggests to Jenny what she “needs” to do without realizing that her actions are not helping Jenny. This is a theme that is constantly circulated throughout the book, and it is a conversation still held in many places across the country as to how friends of a survivor should show their support.
Richard and Jordan’s relationship is reflective of men in our society and how they respond to these accusations. Their relationship touches the idea that men may conscientiously know when they are in the wrong, but because of societal structure, they subconsciously continue to act in ways that degrade women. An example of this is when Richard tries to “mansplain” to Haley what consent means.
The book could easily become a “well, what really happened?” story, but instead readers are drawn to every event after the initial accusation. This includes how it affects Richard and Hayley’s relationship, and not Jenny and Jordan’s. I think this speaks volume of not just college rape culture, but of rape culture in general. As a society, we are so used to instantly trying to figure out the intricate details of a rape case, sexual assault case or a workplace harassment case in order to give our verdict; to say what we think happened and what we believe really took place. However, the book serves as a reminder that offering our opinion is not our job. We do not have the right to know “what really happened” or ask a hundred questions to satisfy our own hunger for the truth.
The truth, despite whatever circumstances may occur, is that rape still happens. Assault and harassment cases are still being filed in workplaces, in Hollywood, in homes, and on college campuses. We get so caught up in the details of these tragic events that we forget to acknowledge that they are real, horrific, and traumatizing situations. Jenny was violated by Jordan. She was put in a situation where her safety was taken away from her, and it does not matter whether Jordan wholeheartedly felt he did nothing wrong to her.
It is so easy for society to believe that there are so many “false accusations” out there, rather than acknowledging that there is sexual assault happening everywhere. While the #MeToo movement deserves praise for the work it has done the past year, it serves as a reminder that survivors and advocates constantly have to prove that rape, sexual assault, harassment, and domestic violence are real issues. This problem is still around because we do not have a universal definition of rape, the legal system typically does not favor survivors because of the lack of witnesses and other factors in the situation. Also, when colleges handle sexual assault cases, their actions are only an addition to what the police can do.
Thankfully, many colleges, and youth around the world are pushing the agenda to stop sexual violence. In many circumstances, bystander intervention programs, like Teal Dot at the Claremont Colleges, teach people how to intervene and prevent sexual assault. Our very own CMC Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence have done a phenomenal job with hosting multiple events that continue to educate our student body on what it means to live in a healthy sex environment. CMC was a men’s college for the first 30 years, and to this day misogynistic actions on campus add to our own rape culture. It is groups like ‘Advocates’ that give us hope that changes are being made.
I will not tell you how the book ends, where Jenny and Jordan end up or where Richard and Haley’s relationship goes. The point of the book isn’t knowing how it will end. I will tell you that I stand with survivors, and I will continue to read and educate myself on how I can be a better advocate; and if you find yourself feeling like you want to know more about the intricacies and problems with rape culture, then reading Wrecked is a great start.
Below is information regarding resources for mental health, sexual assault, and domestic violence:
Student Health Services: (909) 621-8222 (After hours contact Campus Safety)
Campus Safety: (909) 621-8170 and (909) 607-2000 (emergency)
Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services Center: (909) 621-8202
Dean of Students at Claremont McKenna College: (909) 621-8114
Campus Safety: (909) 607-2000
The EmPOWER Center: (909) 607-0690
And of course…
CMC Advocates are always available to help those who need them.