In the wake of the #MeToo Movement, we would like to think that rape and sexual assault rates on college campuses have fallen drastically as we have all become more aware of what's going on. Yet the reality is that women of college age are still at the highest risk for sexual assault. An area of young woman's world once seen as a safe and peaceful educational haven has become a danger zone where the implications of "rape culture" are brought to life in the most hideous ways. With that being said,
I asked 12 college women about their personal feelings toward rape and sexual assault on campus and how these fears have affected their daily lives:
1. "I literally could not push them off"
"When I was in middle school and high school, guys would grab my butt all the time without my permission. One time, I was dating someone and a guy asked HIM if he could grab my ass and my then-boyfriend said yes. Neither one of them asked me for consent. I've had guys grab me and take advantage of me and it's terrifying because I literally could not push them off." — Danielle, age 20
2. "There's really no consequences"
"Guys usually travel in groups and say and do inappropriate and objectifying things. There's really no consequences for the guys when they rape or harass girls, so it's scary because they don't fear getting in trouble." — Kaylie, age 19
3. "I feel on-edge when I'm walking at night"
"I'm always afraid of getting assaulted on my way back from places at night. The campus isn't well-lit in some areas and when I walk back from the library, I can't help but feel on edge." — Riley, age 18
4. "We have to change a whole culture and that will take time"
"Rape and sexual assault are legitimate fears for me on this campus because they are legitimate problems. And these problems can't be solved overnight, though we may want them to be. Our school and many others are very passionate about putting some kind of end to [campus rape/sexual assault]. We have to change a whole culture, and that will take time. For now, we need to learn better skills for protecting ourselves and understand that this really CAN happen to us." — Mia, age 19
5. "It can happen to anyone"
"I know so many people who've been sexually assaulted here and didn't report it. It's scary because to me, that shows that it can happen to anyone." — Jenna, age 19
6. "I do my best to keep myself safe"
"Honestly, I don't fear too often for my own personal safety as far as being victimized goes, but that's only because I have set strict guidelines for how I plan to protect myself. I refuse to hang out at frats. I always do my best to have a buddy with me. I don't invite strangers over and I don't throw big parties. The only times I really fear being victimized are when I'm walking alone or if I'm at some drinking event because it seems to me that drunk people are less inhibited. I am 100% not implying that it is ever the victim's fault, but I just know what situations to avoid and don't test my limits." — Shay, age 20
7. "They're becoming a norm"
"These victims are people I'm surrounded by daily. They're my age. They're my peers. I'm scared because I'm surrounded by stories of rape and sexual assault, so much so they're becoming a norm. It's almost expected and we find ourselves thinking, 'who's next?'" — Taylor, age 20
8. "Even with efforts to protect us, 1 in 5 college women will still be assaulted"
"I know so many women who've been sexually assaulted. A close friend of mine was followed home and raped a year or two ago. Another friend was raped by her then-boyfriend, who said he's hurt himself if she didn't have sex with him. Another friends walked home by a coworker only to have him grope her that same night. That same coworker raped another one of her friends and once the issue was taken to court, the jury decided there wasn't enough evidence to convict him. It's scary because even though there are efforts to protect us, 1 in 5 college women will still be assaulted. And the chances that their assailant will be convicted are slim. It's just discouraging because this all happens and it feels like nothing gets better." — Tori, age 21
9. "I'm very small and also very trusting"
"What scares me most is that most rapes are perpetrated by people known to the victim. Even if you're being safe and taking precautions, there is still a likelihood that you will be hurt or assaulted in some way. If you go out with a friend or even your significant other, they could fall through or get too intoxicated to realize what they're doing is criminal. Knowing that at literally any time during the day there is some chance of getting assaulted is terrifying. And I'm very small and also very trusting, so if I meet someone who seems like they just want to be my friend (especially if I've been drinking a little), I have an irrational sense of 'I'll be fine!'" — Hailey, age 19
10. "I hate that I can't just walk by myself"
"I hate always having to ask someone to walk me or drive me home just because I can't be out by myself at 2:00 AM. That makes me feel so annoying. I can't even ask a female friend to walk me home because then she'll have to walk the way back by herself and risk her own safety. And if we're both intoxicated, we can't drive, so we'll have to pay every weekend for a Lyft…those costs add up. I should be able to walk outside my college campus without fearing for my life." — Lauren, age 20
11. "I don't know who I can trust anymore"
"I've been sexually harassed many times. By people I know and people I don't know. I don't know who I can trust anymore. You never know if you're going to leave and come back home safe. I'm afraid to drink in public or with people I don't know because I'm scared I'll be raped. It's not an irrational fear because it happens to so many people every single day. I live with a disability where I can pass out easily, so I'm afraid that the wrong person might help me one day and end up taking advantage of me." — Elizabeth, age 21
12. "[Guys] are bigger than you and can so easily overpower you"
"So many guys seem like they're nice and caring until they're drunk and horny. It's difficult to trust guys around you when they're bigger than you and can so easily overpower you. They don't understand how everything they do and every move they make can be taken as a threat that makes girls uncomfortable or anxious. As a result, because there are certain areas of campus that are more ominous than others, my female friends and I have learned not to go there." — Bella, age 19
Even though conversations about campus sexual assault are not pleasant to have, we have to keep talking about this issue if we want to incite even more changes to the university policies than we've already seen. Support your fellow women and band together to keep each other safe and secure while you're all on campus together.