Nickname for The River Trail perpetuates rape culture
The River Trail path behind Holmes Hall and McDonel Hall is not a place many students want to be when the sun goes down.
The path is generally called “the rape trail” by MSU students who live in the area.
While hundreds of students walk the path during the day and use it as a shortcut to their classes, many students tend to avoid the convenient path at night.
“It is creepy to walk there at night,” no-preference freshman Robyn Bankston said. “It is so close to the forest and the lights are spaced weirdly.”
Bankston, like many students, said she has heard of the nickname but is unsure if it is actually backed up by facts.
MSU police Capt. Doug Monette said a sexual assault was reported by an MSU student a couple of weeks ago. The report said it occurred on The River Trail.
“It was a late report,” Monette said. “The assault actually happened in 2008.” The police are currently conducting an open investigation into the issue.
Monette said before this, no sexual assaults have been documented in that area for many years.
Because of the lack of facts behind the trail’s derogatory name, MSU officials are unhappy about the term.
Community director of Holmes Hall Nick Ballard declined to comment on the issue at all.
“It’s a very problematic term,” he said. “I don’t want to perpetuate the term. I don’t want to bring up the notion of ‘the rape trail’ anymore.”
Kat Cooper, director of communications for the Residential and Hospitality Services at MSU, said the term “the rape trail” is harmful and makes her sad.
“I do think it is a harmful perpetuation of a stereotype,” Cooper said.“The River Trail is a wonderful natural resource for the students and it is sad it’s called that.”
Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Program, or SARV, Coordinator Kelly Schweda said she also thinks the name is ridiculous.
“It’s mythology like that that makes people think that a stranger will come out of the bushed and assault you when you’re jogging,” Schweda said. “We don’t hear about the ones between boyfriends and girlfriends even though those are much more common.”
According to the National Crime Victimization Study: 2009-2013 conducted by the Bureau of Justice, approximately 80 percent of rape and sexual assault cases are committed by someone who the victim knows, not by a stranger.
Monette said this holds true for the sexual assault cases that occur on campus.
“Most sexual assaults occur at the hands of an acquaintance in the rooms of the students,” Monette said. “Sexual assault by a stranger in the middle of the woods almost never happens.”
Bankston said despite the facts, she is still uncomfortable walking The River Trail path alone at night.
“Most of my friends are guys so they don’t feel weird walking down the trail,” Bankston said. “When I am alone, I usually walk faster or I stay on the phone with someone.”