My biggest fear in starting college is that I will become another name added to a list as the result of a drunken college hookup. Every parent's fear for their students: college rape. I have been taught to fear those I don't know, especially in a party setting. I have been shamed and lectured about the clothes I wear, the actions I take, and the words I speak. I have known all of my time that danger is more real because I have been born female instead of male.
For most of my life, I have accepted the fear that danger lurks just around the corner for female college students. Yet, as I will be starting college in the fall, the irrational fear that anything can happen to me at any time is holding me back.
I have begun to question if I should be scared all the time.
Why do I have to be worried for my well-being? Why am I limited in what I can do because I am female?
I understand that having a penis does not automatically dictate that you will be a rapist in the same way that having a vagina does not merit being a victim. But why do I have to be afraid because some people were never taught to respect women?
According to the Department of Justice, "11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students)." Yet, less than 20% of students report their sexual assault to the authorities. More than 50% of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October, or November (Campus Sexual Assault Study, 2007; Matthew Kimble, Andrada Neacsiu, et. Al, Risk of Unwanted Sex for College Women: Evidence for a Red Zone, Journal of American College Health (2008).
There is a deep-rooted, social psychological fear among many students that they will, in some way, experience sexual assault in college. I will be starting college in the fall, many hours from the comfort of my own home. I have not yet made friends or found a "party buddy" who will become my protector from the harms that come from freshman college parties.
If I wear a skirt too short or a top too low cut, I'm just asking for it, aren't I? But if you wear a tight pair of jeans or a muscle tank top, does that mean it's your fault if someone else strips you naked and forces themselves on you?
Allow me to make this crystal clear: No matter what she's wearing or how intoxicated she is, that is no valid reason to place a foreign entity violently inside her without her consent. Inebriation or clothing is not an invitation. It is both sickening and maddening that it's even implied that a woman should be held responsible for the assaults inflicted upon her by a man.
I am scared because I am surrounded by stories of rape and sexual assault that surround college campuses. When victims tell their stories, they are usually greeted with hush money from their college. Or, if they go to the police, there is a long, drawn-out investigation that forces the victim to relive their story over and over again.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, more than 90 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported. The same report concludes that one in five women are assaulted while in college.
College will more than likely be some of the best four years of my life, but sexual assault always looms around the corner. I am a female college student, and I should feel safe.