“Sexual Assault Crisis” through the lens of the “Rape Capital of America”

An article written by Eliza Gray was published in Time Magazine was assigned as reading for this class in October. This article, titled “The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses.” The article focuses on the town of Missoula, Montana. Missoula was declared as “America’s Rape Capital” after Thomas Perez, the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights stood before a press conference and announced that “in the past three years, there have been at least eightyreported rapes.” This article goes into detail in defining what is considered sexual assault and rape according to not only the school but also includes the definition provided by the FBI. The first part of this article addresses the problem at hand found at this college town. As we have mentioned in many classes this semester, it is found that one in five women will be the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault while in college. With this finding and the declaration of reported rapes in Missoula, worry and confusion spread nationwide. These statistics created a dangerous and frightening public image of college campuses. The article proceeds to convince that these statistics shouldn’t be “taken to mean that young American men are a horde of violent rapists.” The author also notes that among those sampled, the reports of the worst offenses were committed by a small group of students and were committed by repeat offenders rather than a widespread of students.

Along with Missoula, the Obama Administration released a list of” 55 colleges under federal scrutiny over how they handle sexual-assault complaint.” Ivies such as Harvard and Princeton were only some of the colleges on this roster. The article proceeds to address how this type of college culture exists and thrives. In a re-enacted conversation between a University of Massachusetts researcher and an actor that is portraying a a study respondent, the audience is provided with some insight on the thought process and progression of events that instigate or result in sexual assault. He describes a setting of college guys in fraternities seeking out naive freshmen girls and using their inexperience of alcohol to create this type of “opportunity” for sexual assault. Although very despicable, this type of scenario seems realistic and possible in many college campuses. The article further explains steps that Missoula has taken to prevent and eliminate the sexual assault and rape issue that exists on their campus. This includes education for students about sexual assault and bystander-awareness programs. Years later, students report a better overall mood on campus and a decreasing reference to the campus as the “Rape Capital” of America. Many feel, however, that without intense federal interference, the issue of sexual assault and rape on college campuses in America will not slow down.

A beneficial aspect of this article was its thorough explanation of how complex the issue is and how many different things are involved in defining, reporting, and handling sexual assault on college campuses. A limitation that exists in this article is that the article might appear to include certain statements that seem to attempt to provide an excuse or reasoning behind sexual assault and rape or trying to provide some sort of reassurance that the campus is not as bad as it may seem according to statistics.

I connected this article to the Project Safe presentation that we witnessed in class regarding steps made to improve our campus issue of sexual assault at Vanderbilt. This presentation included similar statistics to this article about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and aim to provide a resource for victims. I also can connect this article to the concept of “hook-up culture” that exists currently in college campuses and how that type of culture might be attributing to the prevalence of sexual assault as sexual encounters may beoccurring more often and/or casually.

 

An example that I found to relate to this article is this image from the Internet:

This image resonated with me because of the choice of object. As mentioned above in the re-enacted interview between a University of Massachusetts researcher and an actor that is portraying a a study respondent, the respondent describes a scene that involves partying and consumption of alcohol that is thought to contribute to the issue of sexual violence and rape on campuses. The red cup shown in this image with the title of “Sexual Assault at College” is clearly linking the two together associates both as occurring within the same setting or one being a result of another. Although this connection might seem like one that is well-known, it can be related to the new definition of sexual assault including the concept of “consent.” It is also made known in the article that while intoxicated with alcohol, consent can not be given. With a link between both sexual assault and alcohol consumption in college, this clearly poses a problem. This image connects to the “hook-up” culture that we have repeatedly discussed in class as it depicts a situation of being intoxicated and “hooking-up” with no relationship status and could contribute to opportunities for sexual assault or rape to occur. Although this article did not make any statement or provide any statistic that confirms a cause and effect or strong correlational relationship between alcohol consumption and sexual assault, it is to be considered that the type of atmosphere that includes a party and alcohol consumption may be related in college.

Do you think that attempts to prevent sexual assault on Vanderbilt campus have been effective?

Had you heard of Missoula as being named the “Rape Capital” of America before reading this article?

Do you think that sexual assault is linked to alcohol consumption on this campus and in general?

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