Sexual Assault and Violence on College Campuses
Let’s begin by understanding the term “sexual violence.” This term is used to describe any forced or unwanted sexual activity done to a victim’s body against their will. These include rape, non-consensual activities, threats, or any other form of intimidation. The Bureau of Justice (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) states that rape “is the unlawful penetration of a person against the will of the victim with use or the threatened use of force, or attempting such an act” (Roebuck and Murty). Sexual violence affects all communities, genders, ages, races, and religions. Sexual violence can be preventable through the collaboration of communities and society. The impact that sexual violence leaves on its victims can affect their daily life. These negative effects can also take a toll on parents, friends, children, spouses, and the community they surround themselves with.
Sexual violence on college campuses has been increasing by “50% over the course of a decade” (Stampler). Sexual violence has been brought to the public eye by the actions that higher education institutions are dismissing any sexual violence complaints that come through their office. This occurs even though Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. “prohibited sex discrimination in any educational institution or program receiving federal funding” (Miller). Still, 89% of higher institutions fail to report any incidents (Miller). Our former president Barack Obama also stated on September 2014 at a White House event that ”one of the most dangerous places for young women in America today is a college campus” (Roebuck and Murty). Sexual violence has been such a huge issue throughout the United States of America because when institutions get involved there is no actual punishment for these acts if they happen on school grounds. The most a higher education campus can do is expel, the student but more often than not most of them are kicked off campus for a few months and then return as if nothing happened. For which it is extremely detrimental that an “estimated one-in-five women have been sexually assaulted during her college years” (Roebuck and Murty). For example, a case of sexual assault that took place at Yale University in 2015 is a perfect example. A female student of 24 years accused Saifullah Khan, age 25, of raping her in her dorm room. Someone claimed that she was the first one to initiate sexual activity with Khan, even though she had been vomiting from drinking too much. The female student lost the court case due to doubt of memory and the fact she was wearing “party clothes” (Boboltz). Cases like this is the reason that there are protests in order to shine some light onto the issue. For example, the protest that took place in Columbia University featured more than 130 protestors took 28 mattresses to the universities president’s doorstep. This was done to bring awareness to the sexual assault victims on campus.
It is rare for sexual assault victims to report their attacks to any enforcement personnel, “only 19.1%” report their attacks (Roebuck and Murty).However, none of these sources have an accurate portrayal of how many people are actually sexually assaulted because police report an underestimated number since only 19.1% report their attacks. In fact, “some studies estimate 10% to as many as 29% of women have been victims of rape or attempted rape since starting college; and, some estimate anywhere from 2% to as many as 10% of all women have been victimized within the last 12 months” (Roebuck and Murty). Even though these percentages are pretty high, they still don’t account for every report and the fact that administrators can intentionally decrease the number of sexual assaults that are reported in order to keep a good impression for future residents. Colleges and universities only started to report their crime rates and carry out sexual assault policies because of the Jeanne Clery Act of 1990. This act was instituted because of Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old college student who was raped and murdered in her campus hall at Lehigh University. This act is important because it helps higher institutions to communicate the safety of their residents and create a guide to help implement effective policies.
“Party rape” is one of the many different forms of rape that are more often seen in a higher education institution. Party rape is more common in party dorms or fraternity parties. This involves intentionally intoxicating women and then sexually assaulting them. Usually, the school administration has policies on alcohol possession or use but it has been easier for students to get a hold of in recent years. Since some schools are stricter than others, it causes students to throw parties off-campus, which leads to the victims of sexual violence at these parties not able to receive protection or help. Another different form of rape found on campuses is “date rape”. Date rape is defined as being sexually assaulted by someone you were romantic with. Date rape can be difficult to distinguish because it has been given a reputation of not being “real rape.” Due to the past, men were more likely to receive no consequence for being sexually aggressive when it came to their intimate partner.
There’s a wide variety of reasons predators sexually assault women. Usually, it begins with the feeling of being powerful and entitled to have what they want. If predators feel rejected when it comes to their desire, then a feeling of unfulfillment will take over and lead to sexual assault to regain the feeling of power. The thought of predators being able to get away with their actions can also influence. A study done by Zoe D. Peterson proved that men who felt like they can get away with the crime were more likely to commit it (Estrich).
As stated before, not every attack is reported. When one does come into the light it can either go two ways. First by getting a lot of attention in which the crime is taken to court or it can get sweated under the rug by school administration and no consequence is given to the attacker. If someone is being fined for committing the act of date rape, they will usually be sued for monetary damages. The victim must prove that the attacker disobeys the law with evidence and that it occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. Damages that will be claimed in these lawsuits involve the physical and emotional harm the victim has suffered and will continue to suffer. Attackers can be punished with either 24-48 months in prison or up to a $10,000 fine. In reference to the victims, the consequences that they will have are suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Several studies have proven that rape trauma victims are one of the highest groups to develop PTSD. This long- term disorder can cause serve anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping at night. A lot of these victims will also feel guilty, ashamed, or even disturbed towards themselves and will not seek any help.
In conclusion, sexual violence on college campuses has become an alarming issue throughout the years. Most of these crimes are committed either on a college campus due to the party lifestyle that higher education has been given by society or by residents of higher education institutions who have figured a way of keeping that image alive but outside of campus. Sexual violence can be both physical and verbal. The consequence for victims of such an act can be long-term and affect victims’ responses on if they should receive any help or support. And attackers are given light punishment or no punishment at all.
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