When Will Universities Finally Understand?

As rape cases are becoming more and more public on university campuses, more is being done with this terrible problem of sexual assault. One out of every five females will be sexually assaulted on campus and one out of sixteen males will be sexually assaulted on campus. Why are these numbers so high on campuses and how can we stop this problem? It seems like the more people know about this, the more people will do something about it. On November 19, 2014, an article was released by Rolling Stone magazine about a rape that happened on the University of Virginia’s campus to a freshman girl. She is just now sharing her horrific story, but sadly it’s a story that is too similar to other rape victims.

From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill, we’re gonna get drunk tonight
The faculty’s afraid of us, they know we’re in the right
So fill up your cups, your loving cups, as full as full can be
As long as love and liquor last, we’ll drink to the U of V
—”Rugby Road,” traditional University of Virginia fight song

This fight song sets the stage for the female student that was raped on Virginia’s campus because of the effect that alcohol had on her perpetrators and the influence it has around campus. After reading about what happened to “Jackie” (the name was changed in the article to Jackie for her anonymity), many things line up perfectly with what we have discussed in class and with what has happened in other cases of rape victims. In the article, one of the quotes that I could most relate to was: “Jackie’s orientation leader had warned her that UVA students’ schedules were so packed that “no one has time to date – people just hook up.” We find this same type of culture on the Vanderbilt campus. I wonder if it has to do with the level of academics at both universities- the students are so dedicated to succeeding in the classroom and with extra-cirriculars that they do not feel the desire to date or have the time. Do you think this is a valid reason for hooking up? Do you see this trend on campus or with other campuses?

In class we learned that conservative estimates suggest that twenty five percent of women experience sexual assault in their lifetimes and about eighteen percent of those assaults involve rape. Also, eighty to ninety percent of sexual assaults are perpetuated by an acquaintance. This was true for Jackie. She went out to dinner with a Junior in one of the best fraternities on UVA’s campus and afterward went to the fraternity house for a party. They went upstairs to “talk” and when she got in the room there were other guys in there waiting for her. A sad and scary quote she gave in the article was about what one of the guys said about her: “Grab its motherfucking leg,” she heard a voice say. And that’s when Jackie knew she was going to be raped.” This quote can be a reality for many people, more common than what we realize. Jackie was raped by multiple college fraternity guys in a small amount of time and could not protect herself. Forty four percent of United States sexual assaults are perceived to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and this was no exception in Jackie’s case. She explained how for three hours she could smell marijuana and hearing them drinking alcohol while seven different men took turns raping her. They abused her sexually and violently and Jackie escaped around three am once she was finally alone and she woke up. 

Once Jackie escaped the horrific scene and found her friends, the friends did not want to take her to the hospital because it would ruin their reputations on campus and Jackie’s. In the article, it explains how Jackie recalls what was said from her friends about what to do; “Jackie listened as Cindy prevailed over the group: “She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape,’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.” I believe that this issue is why many people do not report when they have been a victim of sexual assault. It is a topic that can hurt so many people, that victims are afraid to share what had happened to them. The fear of reliving the story and the fear of their perpetrators out weighs their ability to go to an authoritative figure who can help. While I was reading this, I was wondering if the University of Virginia had an organization like Project Safe on campus. After the representatives from Project Safe came to our classroom, I realized that this organization is necessary on every campus because it truly is a safe place for people to get help and learn what their next step is after being a victim of sexual assault. One in five women are sexually assaulted on campus but only twelve percent actually report the crime to the police. The importance of an organization like Project Safe would have helped Jackie figure out what exactly she needed to do. 

What are the next steps to prevent something terrible from happening on campus like it did to Jackie? How do you think we could better educate people about the seriousness of sexual assault on campus? This needs to end but I believe it begins with us.

4 thoughts on “When Will Universities Finally Understand?

  1. I think one of the easiest ways to combat sexual assault on college campuses is to create a system of support for survivors, something that Jackie noticeably lacked. Jackie’s likely first impression of the UVA sexual scripts likely came from her orientation leader, who posited that hook up culture was the norm. By advocating for hook up culture right off the bat, Jackie’s orientation leader inadvertently made fraternity parties and alcohol (two popular factors in hooking up) seem the norm. Perhaps if Jackie was not primed into thinking that the only form of fitting in at college was by submitting to hook up culture, she may not have felt as compelled to go to the party with the Junior, which ultimately led to her rape. Rape culture unfortunately will not end with the Rolling Stone article, but hopefully it will spark discussions about how to properly address sexual assault and hooking up on campus.

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  2. I heard about the UVA rape case, but I hadn’t heard any specific details so this post was astonishing to read. It still blows my mind that there is so much sexual assault on college campuses and instead of the numbers decreasing—they keep rising. I definitely think there should be some form of a Project Safe on all campuses so that victims have support and help at all times. I also think the bystander issue is huge. We cannot be bystanders and let sexual assault become something that is so common and so normal.

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  3. I believe that the new laws that force universities to report statistics about sexual assault and the counselors will help students address sexual assault. My father went to UVA and talked about how it was a problem when he was there. He said it had almost been accepted by the student body because the men assumed that women understand what happened at the frats, due to the songs they sing. I think the students perspective of rape needs to change more than the administrators need to. This should be done by raising awareness of the assault that is going on and teaching students how to protect themselves.

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  4. I think something that really struck me about this case, as well as the case of the other UVA student who was abducted and killed, is the lack of willingness of these girls’ friends to do anything. I think that is such an awful depiction of friendship, and we can all learn a lesson from this. If combating sexual assault on college campuses starts with us, then there should be a collective agreement among students to have each other’s backs and aid each other in decisions about reporting as much as possible. I think that the fact that their friends were worried about reputation and stigma shows that discourse has not broken down those walls yet, and I do think that Vandy is making progress in this area. With forums and campaigns and pledges, Vanderbilt is getting the topic out there, getting people talking, and hopefully encouraging people to report and discouraging perpetrators from committing such acts of violence.

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