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College is supposed to be a safe place to experiment and learn about who you are as a person. Unfortunately, the common occurrence of sexual assault in colleges and universities across the nation makes this a mere dream for many young people. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center one in five women are sexually assaulted on a college campus while one in 16 men are. That means that there is a 20 percent chance that a woman will be assaulted and a six percent chance a man will. Those numbers, although not huge, are alarming. It is an experience that NO person should ever have to go through. So how do we lessen these statistics?
The number one thing we can do is start the conversation. There needs to be a week long class that students NEED to pass in order to be fully enrolled in the school. A sexual education class, if you will. In this class, students will learn the horrible statistics and hear personal accounts from survivors of sexual assault. They will learn what they can do if they see the warning signs of sexual assault. Some people may argue that a weeklong class is a long time, but the director of the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance at Rutgers University, Ruth Anne Koenick says “You cannot do a one-time program and expect to make a difference.” While a short three-hour long seminar may cover resources that one can use AFTER the fact, it will not be as in depth as is necessary to instill habits that will help prevent the assaults. In all honesty, a weeklong class won’t either. But it is a step towards beginning the conversation.
But the conversation needs to happen outside of the classroom too. Most Colleges and Universities already include this conversation in their Orientation programs. But after that, unless you are involved in programs like “Check It” at Humboldt State University, or are directly involved in a reported assault, it is unlikely you will hear about it again. On campus dorms need to have monthly meetings that dedicate some time to reviewing steps that can be taken to avoid assault, frats and sororities need to be closely monitored and have that conversation frequently as well. The beginning of the conversation and making the information easily accessible is the first step to reducing the occurrence of sexual assault on campus.
The next thing we need to do is quit victim blaming. Victim blaming is when the victim of sexual assault is asked how THEY could have avoided the assault. Let us make this perfectly clear. It is NEVER the victim’s fault. No person asks to be assaulted. If they did then it is not called assault and there is no issue. A promiscuous student is not asking for it. Someone dressed in provocative clothes is not asking for it. If we want to lessen a number of assaults we need to know exactly how many there are. And the reality is a majority of assaults go unchecked because the victim is afraid to come forward. Now they may be afraid of retaliation from their assailant, but more frequently they are afraid that someone won’t believe them, or they have been convinced that something they say or did was asking for it. First of all only two-10 percent of the 25 percent reported rapes are false accusations (knowyourix). That means that a majority of the accusations actually happened. Next, the fact that society has instilled in people the idea that because they were assaulted they must have been asking for it is barbaric. I do not care what you do you do not ASK to be robbed. So how can a person ASK to be assaulted? This is an insult to victims everywhere.
The last thing that schools can do is partner with programs whose sole purpose is to get the information out there about sexual assault and how to avoid it. These programs are everywhere and while some need to be expanded every little bit helps. Some good examples of such organizations include Real Consent and Bringing in the Bystander.
Let us reduce the occurrence of sexual assault.