Someone who rapes at a college may have many bystanders around him....

Dear Engaged Bystander:  I usually think that any coverage of sexual violence is helpful when it generates some discussion. And this most recent episode of Law and Order SVU has done just that. If you have not see the great comments by the Safe Date Project definitely read their very comprehensive overview of the issue.
First, I agree with ALL of their insights and especially on coining the term “Grey Rape.” We know that how you frame the issue often leads the audience to one conclusion or another. In this case, they are framing rape as a black and white issue and claiming that when both students are drunk, it is unclear – or “grey”.  The show did at least discuss the fact that when a woman is drunk, she cannot consent so that it is, by definition rape. But they cloud this point of view by having the detective and his wife wonder out loud about whether they would have gotten together if they were not drunk that first night. Again, what message is that sending out? That it really is ok if you marry her later on… 
Second, I am fixated on a part of the show that no one has discussed. The rapist is pictured as handsome, articulate, smart and popular. Yet, he seems to have no connections outside of the women he intends to prey upon. The only figure in his life is the attorney he hired to defend himself. For someone who is handsome, articulate, smart and popular, it just does not make sense.  Where are his family who could confront him about his behaviors. Where are his friends who could create a “buddy” for him to ensure that he does stay safe and that the young women at his college stay safe. He is never pictured talking with a friend or roommate or calling on an elderly relative or a mentor or any number of people who would have been able to step in. 
In this particular story, friends of the victims do say something. But what about the friends of the alleged rapist? If we want to prevent sexual violence BEFORE it is perpetrated, we need to look more closely at the people who are at risk to sexually abuse. These are not potential perpetrators – they are people we care about who are at risk for hurting someone else. As friends or family, it Is our business to do something. This is where we can be most effective as engaged bystanders. And when we do take that stance, we begin to ask very different questions of the people we love. Yet in this show, no one was there… 
Maybe in the next season they will go into more depth about this perspective.   In the meantime, if this one show does generate discussion then maybe we can move towards a more enlightening show next year.
Warmly
joan