In January, my friend was sexually assaulted. Someone she considered a friend came into her room, made advances at her, and despite the fact that she said no, he held her down by her throat and assaulted her. Neither one was under the influence of any mind-altering substance.
The only reason it was "just" a sexual assault, and not a full-fledged rape? His alarm rang. He had to go to practice.
My best friend and I rushed to her room as soon as we heard, and we opened the door to see the lights out, and her teary-eyed in bed. She could barely even speak, voice hoarse from the attack.
She chose to report it to the university, and we rushed her to the health center to see if they could do anything. She chose not to go to the police. She said she didn't need to press charges. She just wanted him out of her classes.
The university promised that they would take care of it. Just like the flyers around campus say: "Speak up, we'll listen."
It is now April. Four months have gone by. He has not been removed from her classes. He is still a university athlete. He has had no consequences whatsoever for his actions, despite the fact that my friend did everything she could to report him.
The only action that has been taken was an "intervention" in which my friend and her attacker had to sit down face to face and talk about the incident. His only answer for his actions was that "she didn't say no enough." He didn't deny being with her. He apologized for his actions, acknowledging the unwanted sexual contact.
And he received no consequences.
This past week, my friend was pulled into yet another meeting. She thought the university was going to finally take action. Instead, she was assigned a three to five page paper on consent. They said they needed to be sure she understood what she was accusing him of. Furthermore, they were dropping the case because they had "something bigger brewing."
My friend's attacker will not be removed from her classes. They have the same major, and at our small university this means they will have nearly every class together for the next two years until graduation. She didn't go to the police. Her only request was that he be removed from her classes, and this could not even be accommodated
One in four college-age women report surviving a rape or attempted rape at some time throughout their college career. That means that if you are sitting in a lecture with forty girls, ten of them have been assaulted at some point. More than half of these women will never come forward and report their attacker.
And really, why should they? If their university is not going to solve the problem, why should they come forward?
It has had nothing but negative consequences for my friend. As if the assault itself was not traumatic enough, she was dragged into a one-on-one meeting with her attacker, and now is being forced to write an account of the attack. A three to five- page paper. She has essentially been given homework for being sexually assaulted. Meanwhile, her attacker has been permitted to return to his normal life.
After all, she didn't say no enough.
That statement in itself is a fallacy. If she said no even one time, that is enough. Actually, if she said anything but "yes," she said no. The question of whether or not she protested enough should not even be a question. She protested. He continued. That, by definition, is sexual assault.
As I write this article, I'm searching every news site I can think of, trying to find information on how colleges deal with sexual assault, trying to find cases similar to my friend's, or trying to find universities that handled sexual assault in a better way. My searches turn up empty.
If one in four college-age women is raped or sexually assaulted, why I can't find any information on it?
Because it is swept under the rug. It's an issue that universities pretend doesn't exist. They put up flyers and send out meaningless surveys creating the illusion of safety, but when an incident actually occurs, it is just not dealt with.
It's time to end the silence.
It's time to force our universities to deal with sexual assault, to punish the attacker instead of the victim, and to prevent sexual assaults. After all, if one person gets away without punishment, that sets the precedent for every incident to follow.
It's time to dig up the problem and deal with it. It's time to say no.