Rape Culture on College Campuses

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By Emmie Heiserman

International Women's Initiative Staff Writer 

The most dangerous place for women in America may surprise you. In their pursuit to a higher education, women face a plethora of challenges on college campuses, which many argue to be a result of rape culture. Although both men and women experience assault, in the United States, one out of every four women attending college today will be a victim to sexual assault. This number has greatly increased sense 2014. The most risky time for a woman to be assaulted is in the first semester of their freshman (or first) year. In addition, over 80% of sexual assault cases on college campuses are committed by another student. 

Stories of assaulted women who have not been given justice from the law or their university are not rare. For example, Emma Sulkowicz attended Columbia University and was victim to rape. She gained the nation’s attention after committing to carry a dorm room mattress with her everywhere she went in protest of attending the same university as her rapist. Columbia University is just one school that has been criticized for their response to sexual assault reports.   

A common response to high sexual assault rates from officials is to equip women with tools that may help prevent them from being assaulted. Some initiatives to keep college women safe include: making women take rape prevention classes, encouraging women to purchase self-defense merchandise such as a rape whistle or pepper spray, or advising women to obtain from alcohol consumption. Above all, these solutions to sexual assault, campus officials are missing one target that could help eliminate sexual assault, men. 

This type of thinking is not only victim blaming, but also may be the root of why more women do not report their assaults. The US Department of Justice estimates that less than 5% of women who were sexually assaulted reported their offense to the police. This cycle of assault and report leaves many perpetrators of assault without consequences and the general public with little to no information on how common assault is.  

Although college campuses that receive government aid must, “maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information,” it is clear that policies such as this that attempt to prevent sexual assault are faulty and ineffective as statistics of sexual assault continue to rise and offenders continue to be not held responsible for their actions. Universities need to create communities free of victim blaming with education to not only women but also men about what sexual assault is and the importance in stopping it in addition to maintaining offices specifically designated to supporting victims of sexual assault and encouraging survivors to report assault.