Fear of rape can be due to being 'White' or 'Republican', grad student argues

A PhD candidate at the University of Virginia recently published a paper arguing that many women's fear of being sexually assaulted is connected to their being 'White' or 'Republican.'

She also claims that it is a 'myth' that 'police officers will protect women from sexual violence.'

Rachel Smilan-Goldstein, a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia, recently published a paper arguing that many women’s fear of being sexually assaulted is connected to their being “White” or “Republican,” blaming those women for upholding “state institutions that enact violence.”

The University of Virginia Department of Politics prominently features Smilan-Goldstein’s research on its page showcasing graduate student publications.

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In one section, Smilan-Goldstein argues that “women fear sexual violence as a direct result of gendered, racialized power relations.” 

Throughout the article, Smilan-Goldstein attempts to tie racist attitudes to fear of rape. From these premises, Smilan-Goldstein hypothesizes that fear of rape will cause women, particularly White and Republican women, to support police at greater rates and to feel more comfortable around them.

This support for police, she goes on to argue, is problematic. 

“Reliance on the carceral state for solutions to violence is particularly troublesome,” she writes, “as it is well-established that the carceral state enacts violence on Black and Brown communities, including, of course, Black and Brown women.” 

Smilan-Goldstein also claims that it is a “myth” that “police officers will protect women from sexual violence.” Though Smilan-Goldstein does eventually concede that it is “reasonable” for women to fear rape in some contexts, she qualifies the statement by arguing that “turning to policing as a solution only fuels the same culture of violence.” She also takes issue with the police for being a “masculinist” and “patriarchal” institution. 

“The results,” she writes, referring to her finding that women who were concerned about being raped tended to support the police, “reveal a disturbing paradox in which women who are most afraid of sexual violence are less willing to challenge state institutions that enact violence.”

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Smilan-Goldstein’s opposition to law enforcement is not uncommon in academia. Despite rising rates of violent crime, professors and students are calling for the dissolution of police departments.

In her conclusion, Smilan-Goldstein praises “abolitionist feminists” who “[connect] ending violence against women with broader calls for social justice, an expanded welfare state, and the dismantling of the carceral state.” Dismantling the carceral state, in this context, means abolishing prisons. 

Rachel Smilan-Goldstein teaches courses at UVA. Last summer she taught a class titled “Political Psychology of Racism and Sexism.” Much of her other research focuses on the alleged connection between racialized attitudes and fear of sexual violence.

Campus Reform has contacted all relevant parties for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.