Institutional change required for safer college campus

Attention by colleges, as well as a societal shift to the importance of consent, is necessary to reduce sexual assaults.

Due to a lack of education about consent, a society that does not place enough value on bodily autonomy, and schools that do not follow through, college students experience high rates of sexual assault during their stay on campus.

As spring and summer approaches, many young people are thinking about the next stage of their life. Unfortunately, rape and sexual assault are rampant among young people on a college campus. According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Newtork (RAINN), “13% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).” Additionally, college
women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than robbed.

Why are victims the ones that are given the responsibility in sexual assault cases but not robberies? What is the real difference?

Young women are blamed by their peers and faculty for wearing revealing clothes or drinking, but the bottom line is that it is no one’s fault but the perpetrator. For a crime that is so common, a massive cultural shift needs to be made to create any change.

The Pennsylvania Coaltion Against Rape states that “effective prevention strategies address the root causes and social norms that allow sexual violence to exist.” All discrimination is correlated so dismantling racism, homophobia, transphobia and any bigotry are necessary for reducing numbers. RAINN’s reports suggest that LGBTQ populations experience sexual assault more often than cisgender straight women. “23.1% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted,” RAINN reports.

According to a study done by Robert W. S. Coulter and Susan R. Rankin called College Sexual Assault and Campus Climate for Sexual and Gender-Minority Undergraduate Students, if colleges and universities are to reduce college sexual assault among all students, as recommended by the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault (2014), then their focus must include sexual and gender-minority populations.

An additional shift that needs to be made is the discussion about bodily autonomy. Education on bodily autonomy should start in childhood and continue through adulthood. By no means should children be exposed to inappropriate material, but instead taught not to feel shame about their bodies and that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone. Harvard EDU suggests doing this by “develop[ing] a shared vocabulary, lay[ing] the emotional and social groundwork [and] teach[ing] kids it is OK to express hurt and model[ing] consent.” Having an open dialogue with a child throughout their whole life allows them to not feel shame and not go to inappropriate places for answers. If they don’t hear it from parents, they are going to hear it somewhere else. As a child gets older, it is a parent’s job to remind them that others bodies do not belong to them, and the importance of not just consent but enthusiastic consent.

“Only 20% of female student victims, aged 18-24 report to law enforcement,” according to RAINN. Proper support on campuses is a necessary part in making victims feel comfortable sharing their stories. Campus police that are informed on the proper ways to talk to victims and the correct steps to take in reporting are necessary in getting victims the support they need. Taking victims seriously is important as well. According to Brown University, false reporting can happen but is highly unlikely to, as the “6%” false accusations rates are similar to false reportings of any other crime.

Many colleges try to reduce their number of reports by shaming students and attempt to silence them. This way high schoolers looking to apply to colleges will see smaller rates at their school. This is unacceptable behavior. What is more important monetary value or the safety and well being of human beings? It’s time we as a society and college administrators take victims seriously.