Rape is a taboo subject in our society. Many people don’t want to even acknowledge the existence of rape and how disgustingly frequently it occurs. Ignorance is bliss, right?

The word “rape” has somehow become a commonplace phrase in our culture, which doubtless is instrumental in desensitizing us. Few people think twice when they hear “That test totally raped me,” or “The Cardinals raped the Panthers in that game.” Nobody seems to realize how painful and damaging rape is. Many people believe that rape is always the random guy jumping out of the bushes and assaulting some unsuspecting woman, but such assaults account for only a tiny percentage of the total rapes in our community. The rest are perpetrated by somebody who the survivor of the sexual assault knew and may have trusted.

Unfortunately, refusing to think or talk about rape doesn’t make it any less real. This society-wide denial of the reality of rape allows rapists to get away with their heinous crimes, and even actively encourages them. Some people may use alcohol to get someone drunk in order to hook up with them, but they are doing so without consent, which is active and enthusiastic participation by all parties involved. That is rape.

In our culture, if a survivor of rape comes forward with his or her experiences, the response is often skepticism. If a friend confides that she or he was assaulted, first and foremost BELIEVE THEM and listen. This may be difficult to do if you know the perpetrator, but remember that it takes a great deal of courage for a survivor to talk about it. False accusations of rape are extremely rare.

They say that the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Our society has a massive problem with rape; until this taboo is broken down so that rape can be honestly addressed and the root causes annihilated, it will continue. The vast majority of people state that they are opposed to rape. However, for most people it is far easier to ignore the problem or adhere to the taboo and not have to talk about sexual assault.

Thus, we all are complicit in this continued abomination, and we all bear a joint responsibility to break down these walls of silence that enable cowardly rapists to continue their horrific actions and keep survivors from coming forward or getting help.

Stand up and make your outrage known! If you see or hear disrespect, step in and speak up. Stop placing the blame on survivors and asking that litany of pointless questions. Realize that nobody deserves or asks to be sexually assaulted. Hold perpetrators accountable for their actions: Just like alcohol is no excuse for drunk driving, it is no excuse to harm another human being. Chances are we all know perpetrators, even if we don’t realize it.

And finally, come to our weekly Students Stopping Rape meetings, Wednesdays at 5 p.m. in the Women’s Center. The Women’s Center is a great resource and offers free confidential counseling to everybody, so if you feel that you just need to talk to somebody, stop by the first floor of the Student Resource Building.

Don’t just talk the talk of being against rape; it’s time to start walking the walk. Great change starts on the personal level and spreads from there.