With sexual assault, especially at the college age, being so prominent right now, there is much more attention devoted to issue. We, as female students, hear everything from “cover up as much as you can” to “don’t walk alone”, “don’t make eye contact with strangers”, and even “be careful with the choices you’re making”. Every single one of those pieces of “advice” implies that we females have a say in whether or not we will be sexually assaulted. If we dress insanely modestly, be anti-social and not smile at strangers, watch what we do on the weekends and at night, and take precautions to protect ourselves, then our chance of becoming a sexual assault victim are reduced. But, none of those pieces of advice are geared towards the ones choosing to take advantage of innocent victims, the sexual offenders. Why should we have to be in defense mode our entire lives, when the offense could just retreat?
The U.S. Department of Justice has done many studies on sexual assault on college campuses, and has released statistics saying that 1 in every 5 college females will be sexually assaulted during their four years on campus. 1 in 5. That means that when you and your friends pile in a car together, it is likely that one of you will be sexually assaulted sometime in the next few years. The insane part is that 5% of sexual assault crimes on college campuses are reported to the police. For every 20 students who become victims, only one reports the crime. Maybe it is out of fear of the offender or maybe it is because we are drilled with the idea that it is somehow our fault, especially if it happens at, or after, a party or night out at the bars. Accepting a drink from a willing gentleman does not mean we should become a target. If we say yes, but do not have an interest in the guy, we risk becoming a target. If we say no, we are seen as rude. When did saying no become “rude”? We are taught to protect ourselves, and to state our minds, but when we do we are ridiculed and black listed by every guy in ear shot.
They say that women, who are incapacitated, usually as a result of alcohol abuse, are more likely to be victims. Just because we choose to have a couple margaritas and let off steam, does not mean that someone has the right to think it is okay to sexually assault us. There is a reason that most sexual assault victims are females… If a guy is having too many drinks at a bar, and is “assaulted” by a girl, he and his friends think it’s a conquest and an awesome night where he got some action. But, if the same thing happens to a woman, we know it is considered sexual assault, and can be a scaring experience.
What changes the mindset between genders? Many people believe it is because women are seen as “prey”. They talk about how college guys set their sights on a girl, and know they must have her by the end of the night. This “hunting” lifestyle is often related to testosterone levels, and aggression, and dominance, like the king of the animal kingdom. While this does seem like a valid reason for why so many women are sexually assaulted, especially when alcohol increases aggression and the sex drive in men, but the problem is, women think the same way when intoxicated. So if both genders have the same thoughts, especially during college “activities”, then why are women still the main victims of sexual assault, and how do we solve the growing issue?
Campus programs like Green Dot, are doing their absolute best to promote the issue and to encourage both men and women to be responsible and to intervene if they suspect an act of sexual assault is about to occur. They do programs and workshops to teach students from all different groups and lifestyles to work together to end sexual assault, and other types of violence, on our campus. My Greek chapter, as well as other groups I am involved in on campus, have made Green dot workshops mandatory, and even though it took up time out of my busy day, I still remember lessons and tips from Freshman and Sophomore year. No one will be able to solve this issue on their own, which is why the Green Dot program is trying to get UK students to band together and to learn the facts and how to prevent each other from ending up as victims of sexual assault.
The new “It’s On Us Campaign” urges everyone to pledge to end sexual assault. “This pledge is a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault. It is a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution.” They understand that in order for sexual assault rates to decrease it takes both offenders and victims. If every takes a stand and takes this pledge then there will be thousands upon thousands of educated people to help intervene in potential sexual assaults rather than having to deal with the problem after the damage has been done. Their pledge reads: To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur. To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. 63 different organizations have partnered with them to encourage citizens to take the pledge and take a stand again sexual assault.
There are also multiple apps that take precautionary measures to protect yourself, especially at night. Like the app Circle of 6: “A free app that prevents violence before it happens”, you and your closest friends can have a coded group message that allows you to signal them where you are and what they can do to help just by two touches. That way if you’re walking home and want them to know where you are in case something happens, you can signal them. If you end up at someone’s house after a party, and suddenly realize what is happening, you can signal them to come help you.
With the number of sexual assaults on college campuses rising it is important to try and facilitate a safe environment for students, especially females, and to teach both genders the importance of consent. Unfortunately, crimes like this will never cease to exist, which is why it is stressed over and over again to be aware of the situation you’re putting yourself in and to be sure you know how to protect yourself. Like I said before, 1 in 5 college females will be victims of sexual assault. I, personally, do everything in my power to try and ensure I do not become that “one”. If you do become a victim, be sure to report it. Without accurate statistics there is no way to stress the prominence of the issue on campus and to come up with viable solutions to reduce that number. It is unfortunate that we have to protect ourselves from becoming victims, but until perpetrators stop pursuing their “prey” and college students of both genders can co-exist without sexual assault, it is safer to be on guard and take precautions, than to join the statistic.
Statistics reference: Krebs, C.P., Lindquist, C.H., Warner, T.D., Fisher, B.S., & Martin, S. L. (2007). The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study(221153). Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. [Hereafter cited as CSA (2007)].; Krebs, C.P., Lindquist, C. H., Warner, T.D., Fisher, B.S., & Martin, S. L. (2009) College Women’s Experiences with Physically Forced, Alcohol- or Other Drug-Enabled, and Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault Before and Since Entering College. Journal of American College Health, 57(6), 639-647.