Are College Campuses No Longer Safe?

According to the Date Safe Project, “ one in four women in college today have been the victim of rape, and nearly 90% of these women know their rapists.”

Rape. Definition: the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse; any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon us.

From the time we are in our teenage years, us girls are educated on sexual assault and the dos and don’ts of how to avoid these awful situations. We hear lots of stories of rape scenarios, but to most girls they are just that: stories. Though I obviously know rapes exist, until a week ago, I had yet to come across anyone that has experienced assault of any kind first hand.

One of my best friends attends the University of Pennsylvania, and for the first month and a half of college, we talked on the phone at least one, if not more, times a week to catch up and just talk about our respective lives. This was something I always looked forward to, but about six weeks in, my friend (let’s call her Chandler for protection reasons), started to get more distant and not respond to my texts and calls. Though I should have been more worried, I assumed it was due to college and all its accompanying stress. Chandler finally called me last week, bawling, and explained that she had been sexually assaulted. She was one of the 20% of women who had been raped. Chandler was leaving a party, and her friend Rob from one of her classes offered to walk her back to her dorm room. On the way they passed his room and he said he had to grab something and asked if they could stop by. Once they got inside, things got heated but then Chandler realized she was intoxicated and wanted to go back to her room. She explained that to Rob, but he got angry and started using force to hold her down. Chandler started yelling and crying, but he didn’t stop, and no one could hear her. For the next few weeks, she was scared to even leave her dorm room, yet alone face him in class. She started talking to a guidance counselor, and when she finally got the courage to report it to the school, they did nothing about it. They switched all of her classes, but what about the boy? Why does he get to go off scratch free while Chandler has to suffer through this for the rest of her life?

Let’s face it; though college may seem like a safe, carefree environment, it is not crime free. Rape can happen anywhere and with anyone, even someone you trust as a friend like in the situation above. This shouldn’t deter us college kids from going out and having fun, but we should be careful and responsible in our actions.

Currently here at Vanderbilt, we have many rape prevention clubs and resources such as Green dot, Party With Consent, the Psychological and Counseling Center, and the Margaret Cuningghims Women’s Center, which I did not even know existed until yesterday. These are helpful resources but there is not enough to promote that they exist and are here for us to utilize. Additionally, though we are taught many rape prevention caution techniques, each situation is different, and the techniques need to be updated with the modern age.

For a big part of my rape education, consent has been emphasized over and over again. However, especially when one or both parties have been consuming alcohol and or drugs, this is a very thin line to cross. Is consent still consent after a blood alcohol level above the legal limit? Keep I mind, for those of us under twenty-one, the legal limit is .02, so consent is wary even after a few sips of an alcoholic beverage. I am not saying to stop drinking alcohol all together, but to be safe while doing so because there are many unwanted consequences that can occur.

I believe because the lines of rape are hazy, especially when it comes to college campuses where drugs and alcohol are plentiful, we must tailor our education and prevention techniques to fit those situations. There is no specific script for how rapes occur, so we must come up with techniques that outline situations of today. In Time Magazine’s, “The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campus’s,” by Eliza Gray, the solution to campus rapes is distraction. Trying to pull a drunk guy away from going home with a drunk girl can be quite a task and cause some fights, but innovative bystander intervention can be an advantage. An example they used that I personally thought smart was if one sees their friend in a sketchy situation with another girl or guy, distracting them with participation in a game, a trip to a local fast food restaurant, or even just chatter or gossip. Since most sexual intercourse does happen after parties when students are intoxicated, obviously all drunken sex is not unwanted, and does not all constitute as rape. However, bystander prevention and prevention techniques in general can only be useful to have in our tool belts. So remember to pay attention to those around you and stay safe Commodores!

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4 thoughts on “Are College Campuses No Longer Safe?

  1. I think this post touches upon a key issue on college campuses when you said you didn’t know we had a women’s center until recently, people don’t always know where the resources for help are. While Vanderbilt has chosen to publicize Project Safe, and its new center, not every school publicizes its’ rape support centers quite as well. These centers need to be more public and more vocal so that victims can access the support and advice they need and so everyone can be taught proper bystander intervention techniques.

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  2. I did a post similar to this and I really enjoyed reading this! Colleges need to alert more students about these situations that occur at college and than aware students of all the resources they provide. I wonder how students at college college limit sexual assaults and help others be more aware of resources for help. Ever since I learned about sexual assault and rape cases here at Vanderbilt I have become more aware of my surroundings.

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  3. This post deals with the very important and controversial topic of sexual assault on college campuses. We learned through class and through the article by Eliza Gray, 1 in 5 woman experience rape or sexual abuse while in college. This statistic truly covers a large number of people and can happen to anyone, even our closest friends. It is controversial in the college scene because most assaults seem to occur when one or both of the individuals are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In this way, it is hard to give complete consent in that situation where yes would be no in a normal and sober state. You make a good point to watch out for those around us because bystanders intervening could prevent rape and could save a friend from a bad situation. Cutting back on alcohol consumption and prevention education could really help lower the statistic given to us by Eliza Gray.

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  4. I find it interesting how it seems as if few people on campus are aware of the resources that are available for people who need it in situations like this. Coming in as a freshman, sure, these centers, hotlines, and other resources are briefly mentioned, but I do not think they are stressed enough considering people have no idea that they exist.

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