In an effort to find a different perspective on Brock Turner's recent sentencing or lack thereof, I attempted to look past the usual suspects blamed for incidents of sexual assault—that is, victims and assailants. Obviously, though apparently not to everyone, assailants of sexual assault are the sole reason an assault occurs. Why then does it keep happening?
In typical millennial fashion, I was drawn into this issue through articles shared via Facebook and could not quite shake the subject matter. Two Netflix documentaries and countless websites later, I write this article with no more understanding of the topic than when I began this process.
In a study published in 2002 by David Lisak and Paul Miller titled "Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists," a survey within the study revealed that only 6 percent of the men surveyed had attempted or successfully raped someone. Lisak and Miller concluded that despite high levels of sexual assault, both on campuses and off, the attacks were a result of only a small percentage of men. This made a lot of sense to people. If only a select few individuals were responsible for the plethora of assaults on women and men on college and university campuses, then that meant there was a problem with the system, right?
Many people believe that colleges do not handle reports of sexual assault properly. In fact, 95 percent of college rapes go unreported. In 2014, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) conducted a survey that included 350 schools across the nation. Her report revealed several unsettling findings including that as of 2014, 40 percent of schools surveyed had not investigated a single sexual assault within the past five years. Reassuring, huh?
The study also found that many institutions lacked services for survivors, education, and training for school judiciaries and protocol procedures on how school officials and law enforcement should collaborate on reports of assault. The system is flawed. Reports are pushed aside, punishments are not effective and, overall, survivors are left to do just that: survive.
Fix the system, fix the problem! Oh, just kidding, this is not the only factor causing this epidemic. Ever hear the saying, "Boys will be boys"? I have, and in a new Netflix documentary, "The Mask We Live in," experts reveal the impossible standards of being a "masculine" male in today's society.
This documentary in no way defends the behavior of men who attack women. It simply points out that society has created an image of the ideal man and boys learn at an early age what it means not to meet the "standards" needed to be considered a man. Derogatory names such as "f*g," "p***y" or (God forbid) "girl" crush the confidence of a boy who does not encompass typical or expected qualities of his gender. You will not know his feelings are hurt, though, because society taught him not to show emotion.
So let's teach our boys to accept themselves and respect women and bam—problem solved!
Wait, but men are also the victims of sexual assault.
The point I am trying to make is that this problem has more than one cause. Yes, offenders are getting off too easy, but boys will still be boys to avoid being bullied. No, it does not matter what a person was wearing or drinking at the time they were assaulted, but people are still going to drink and do dumb things. Yes, sports players should not receive special treatment, but schools are still going to protect the students who are more recognizable to the nation. We need to stop searching for that one golden cause of sexual assault and rape. People attempt to distribute the blame for sexual assault, but in reality, we need to stop pointing fingers and asking dumb questions like, "What were they wearing?" and being so sensitive to questions like "How much were they drinking?"
I do not want to be shamed for what I wear and how much I drink, and I do not think men want to be accused of harassment every time they flirt. A little less judging and a little more communication may go a long way.
I do not think we all have to carry the blame—that solely falls on the perpetrator—but I do think we should all help carry the burden.