As the juniors start to scout out colleges and seniors start receiving their acceptance letters, sexual assault on campus needs to be a topic of discussion. According to the Washington Post, in the last four years, one in five women has been a victim of sexual assault in college. Additionally, when prospective students go to research or inquire about the sexual assault statistics, they might not receive much information. When colleges were contacted about sexual assaults during the making of the documentary, the Hunting Ground, approximately 35 out of 37 colleges did not respond.
Senior Alana Willms believes sexual assault is something to be cautious about everywhere, especially around a dangerous area or a university which has a reputation for it.
“I think sexual assault records or history is a good thing to consider if the university has a particular reputation for attacks, but also if it’s in an area that has a high number of attacks,” said Willms. “The reality of the matter is that sexual assault can happen anywhere, not just any certain colleges, so it’s something to just be watchful and careful about anywhere you end up.”
Catie Stukel, RAHS senior, was a student who researched Greek life when she was looking into prospective colleges.
“I know some schools have prevailing Greek life that can have a worse [reputation], I’d say. I applied to Dartmouth but I know that they’ve had a lot of frat horror stories,” said Stukel. “I also applied to Michigan and I know that they recently shut down all Greek life activity.”
Stukel also mentions how sexual assault can occur anywhere and women always have to be on guard for sexual predators.
“I think for any young female, it is kind of always on your radar and I think that’s in any circumstance,” said Stukel. “I am planning to take a gap year where I’ll be traveling all throughout the world and probably training through Europe so thinking about that, I’ve had a lot of reservations thinking, ‘Okay, if I’m a female, smaller human, travelling around by myself, that probably poses some risks.’ So I don’t think it’s just on college campuses but I think, especially there, the risks can be propagated and inflated.”
Willms adds that the root of the problem may be upbringing and the way men (whom are the majority of predators) think it is okay to act.
“I think it’s more a matter of men [or women] being raised on less than perfect morals and are never taught the correct way to treat others and what REAL consent is,” said Willms.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, for those who have been assaulted sexually in college, more than 90% of victims do not report their abuse. In the same report, it was found that at one university, 63.3% of males turned themselves in for acts they committed that qualify as rape.
A previously mentioned study by the Washington Post mentioned that, one in five female students in college are sexually assaulted in the US, which is a huge number when one thinks of all the college students in the nation, and the number can only increase worldwide.
Sexual abuse plays a significant influence on educational focus and the lifestyle of the survivor. Almost 31% of rape survivors on campus suffer academically, 21% consider leaving school, and 44% experience problems with peers and friends.
The most shocking statistics is that almost half of these survivors who chose to share with a study conducted by the US Bureau of Justice suffer socially. At this age, it is agreeable to understand that social skills and social lives place not only a huge toll in the lifestyle of younger generations due to societal pressure, but because the benefits that communication results in help when working for the industry.
Willms makes a strong point by relating this back to family and the morality one is based upon, which affects the way one perceives things.
“I think that as a parent, it is your responsibility to drill into your child’s head what consent is, and what it means to have or not have consent,” said Willms, “[otherwise,] children will grow and think it is okay to do things like sexual assault.”
AFTER COLLEGE, HOW HAS IT SHAPED YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE?
RAHS Principal Therese Tipton encourages teenage women to speak out if they’ve ever faced these issues, even though it might be intimidating.
‘I think it’s important, for young girls especially, to know that they can have a voice and that they need to stand up for themselves,” said Tipton. “A lot of what is coming out now is men who are harassing or assaulting but also using their power so I can see why if you’re a young lady, new in your position or you’re afraid of your boss or afraid of losing your job, what we’re finding now with it coming to light [is that] it’s good to stand up and put a stop to it.”
Tipton talks about how sexual assault is prominent in press nowadays and how that affects society’s future as a whole.
“It’s another point of history where change is happening,” said Tipton. “You hear politicians, Hollywood, and other celebrities bringing it to the forefront. So I think it’s going to be a positive change and I don’t feel like we’ll go back to the status quo like it was before.”
Tipton discusses advice she has for incoming college students that might be concerned with these situations.
“Don’t be afraid to speak up,” said Tipton. “Be aware of your school’s policies and educate yourself on what it is.”
STATE LAWS, HOW DOES THE PROBLEM LOOK LEGALLY?
There are sex crime laws in place to support victims of sexual assault. But how efficient are they? Charging on rape and sexual assault is often times pursued without strong evidence, which leads the predator to run free most of the time. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) shows in a study that out of 1000 rapes, only 6 rapists are incarcerated. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice, approximately 23 percent of sexual assaults and rape was reported to the police. In addition to that, the Bureau of Justice said that between 1995 to 2013, females that were in the range of 18 to 24 years old were the most sexually abused demographic.
According to the Clery Center, the Jeanne Clery Act is a “consumer protection law that aims to provide transparency around campus crime policy and statistics.” The act allows victims of sexual assault, as well as of domestic violence and stalking, rights to inclusion of the option for a change of housing, transportation, and course assignment.
It is required that colleges provide access to counseling services, and legal services. Disciplinary proceedings must also be conducted by trained panels. They are necessitated to be fair and must explain procedural rights to both the victim and predator.
But if there is so much protection and provisions, why aren’t enough sexual crimes reported?
According to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, some of the reasons include having a fear of reprisal, believing the crime was not important enough, did not want to get the perpetrator to be punished, and believing the police would not or could not do anything to help.
Sexual misconduct is an epidemic among college and university campuses, and yet many women do not have the confidence and will to speak out and eliminate their fear. This is due to much of the societal pressure we put on women, to fit into a certain type of mold.
BEING AFRAID AND HAVING CONFIDENCE, STANDING UP FOR YOURSELF
Recently, sexual crimes and misconduct have been classified as part of the college “experience”. But does it have to be? Less than 5% of sexual crime victims report the incidents to police or campus safety personnel according to UT counseling and mental health center.
To help eliminate sexual misconduct on campus, and in our communities, victims need to be confident in standing up against it. Campaigns such as online movements, not only empower the community of victims, but they accompany them and make them feel like they matter because they do.
Compassion is the humane character that best used to combat inhumanity.
“People are so uncomfortable talking about it,” said Stukel, “which propagates the issue, which is a problem on it’s own.”
So what can we do about communication when it comes to such an “uncomfortable” and touchy subject? Teamwork, friendships and having a sense of comfort in a community of victims is something that has brought people together to stand up and speak against sexual misconduct in recent months.
An example of this is the #MeToo movement, where famous celebrities are bringing to light how becoming a family of strong women makes more women and victims want to speak against sexual crimes, which results in a cumulation of girls learning that it should be normalized to speak against sexual misconduct as well as reporting it.
Tipton encourages all to be vocal about sexual assault and sexual crimes.
“Find a trusted person at your company or go to law enforcement or what have you so that something can be done but don’t be afraid to speak up,” said Tipton. “Don’t stay silent.”