Over 10 years ago, I graduated from UCSD. Although it was far from a party school, there were plenty of parties and alcohol. In other words, it was the perfect environment for sexual assaults. Unfortunately, many assault charges go unreported or unpunished. According to an LA Times article, more and more victims have said that “colleges and universities have mishandled alleged sexual assault cases.” This includes seven University of Connecticut students (current and former) who have filed sexual assault complaints because UConn supposedly “mishandled” their cases. Needless to say, sexual assaults at college campuses aren’t going away. Even worse, some of the colleges seem to diminish the serious nature of these violent crimes.
Students Need to Feel Safe
When students go to college, it’s often the first time away from home. In a new environment, it’s important for students to feel safe. Sadly, according to campussafetymagazine.com, “between 20% and 25% of women will experience a completed and/or attempted rape during their college career.” As a mother, this information scares me. What can be done to reduce this statistic?
Treat Rape as a Violent Crime
It seems that it is hard enough for rape victims to cope with an assault. When looking at Yale University’s “sexual misconduct” report, it’s interesting to note that terms such as “intimate partner violence” and “nonconsensual sex” are frequently used while I never saw the term rape or assault. I personally don’t think the word “intimate” should be used to describe a sexual assault. Also, when someone is convicted of rape, they need to be expelled, not given a “written reprimand” or a semester suspension. That is something that should be done for cheating on a test, not for assault. Overall, our society needs to take a tougher stance on sexual assault. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Networks (RAINN) claims that “only three out of every 100 rapists will ever spend even a single day in prison.” This may be due to the fact that over half of rapes go unreported. Unpunished, many of these predators will go on to assault again.
Don’t Blame the Victim
It’s never okay to blame a rape victim for a sexual assault. Even if the victim was dressed in skimpy clothing or intoxicated, this is not an excuse for a rape(or any sexual assault). Allowing rapists to use the “oh, I was drunk” excuse for assaulting someone only adds to the problem. Rape should be treated like a violent crime….not a mistake. Furthermore, people who watch (or encourage) a sexual assault without calling the police should also be held responsible too. Friends can help one another not only by designating a driver but choosing someone who can take a drunk friend home before he or she gets into trouble.
While the victim is never to blame, alcohol is involved in many assault cases. In fact, “90% of acquaintance rapes involve alcohol.” Reducing alcohol consumption and enrolling in self-defense classes are other ways to reduce sexual assaults. In general, I think freshman orientation should include a violence prevention segment where students have to attend. Students needs to be told that having sex with someone who is intoxicated, or who says no, is not okay. Furthermore, sex through coercion or force is also unacceptable.
Until colleges treat rape as a crime worthy of incarceration and expulsion the statistics will not improve. Until we discourage sexual aggression as macho, it will be socially acceptable in fraternities and other “high risk” environments. Overall, our attitude towards sexual assault at college campuses, and everywhere, needs to change.
More from Melissa:
Education Trigger Laws: Pitting Parents Against Teachers or Helping Reform Schools?
Why I Want My Kids to Go Away to College
How Involved Should Schools Be in the War on Obesity?