“Carry That Weight (Mattress Performace)” Emma Sulkowicz, carried around a mattress until Columbia would kick out her accused rapist.
Imagine if college campuses were among the safest places in the country. Unfortunately, this is not as true as it should be. Rape, sexual assault, or forcible sex offences are among one of the most common crimes in college campuses according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Why is sexual assault so rampant among college campuses in relation to the rest of the country? Rape culture in the United States and among American colleges and universities could be a possible reason. Rape Culture is when a society normalizes sexualized violence. Sexualized violence is most often defined as rape or sexual assault, however not all cases of Rape are typically seen as violent. Rape is sexual contact without consent. Silence is not consent, incapacitation is not consent, and consent while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not consent, though some people would think otherwise. Rape culture could be a possible explanation to sexual assault rates on campus, as well as why sexual assault and violence is becoming a national issue. I aim to inform readers on rape culture and sexual assault on college campuses, what can be done and why it should be done this way, and why this issue matters.
Rape culture on college campuses is a serious issue, making women live in fear of parties or even just being alone with male students. Rape culture on college campuses is displayed in statistics, when, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RIANN), 11.2% of all undergraduate and graduate students have experienced sexual assault through incapacitation, physical force or violence. The statistics are even more staggering for undergraduate women. 23.1% of undergraduate women experience sexual assault through the same parameters. Rape culture lives and thrives in college campuses where female college students are twice as likely to get sexually assaulted than robbed, even with robberies being the most common crime on college campuses (NCES). Rape culture is proven to thrive on college campuses when only 20% of female college students report sexual assault (RAINN). Sexual assault reports are suspected to be so low on college campuses for numerous reasons, Deborah Rhode reported in her journal, “RAPE on CAMPUS and in the MILITARY: An Agenda for Reform.” UCLA Women’s Law Journal, that reasons for not reporting to police include self-blame, fear, lack of proof and expectations of dismissive treatment. Without rape culture, these reasons would not seem logical enough to stop someone from reporting a crime. If a society did not admonish victims for not being able to prevent their assault why should they blame themselves? Rape culture allows fraternities to think it is appropriate to make disgusting vulgar posters encouraging people to commit sexual assault. Rape culture is scolding the victim for being drunk, but not the perpetrator for taking advantage of a drunk victim. Among all this, the strong correlation between sexual assault and college campuses would logically lead to a decreased number of female college applicants, which is detrimental to any college that strives for diversity.
In order to dismantle rape culture three things should happen. There should be a nationwide effort to educate people on rape and legal ramifications of sexual assault. There needs to be better policies and statutes that deal with rape and sexual assault. There must also be support systems for victims of sexual assault and rape. Most of these efforts would be best implemented on college campuses, where rape and sexual assault is more common. By starting these campaigns on college campuses, this gives an opportunity for their lessons to ultimately be carried throughout a young adult’s professional life, possibly reducing the rates of workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault. A campaign like this would educate people on what rape is, how to help prevent it, how it is punished, and how rape culture affects every person. This can work, according to Kristen Jozkowski, University of Connecticut’s sexual assault reports nearly doubled due to a heightened awareness of what exactly constitutes as rape and sexual assault. This increased rate of reporting crimes may seem like it would be working against making college campuses statistically safer, however once rape charges are met with adequate action, the rate of rapes and rape reports should drop. Also considering that in studies done on two college campuses, male athletes, which constituted for three percent of the college population accounted to twenty percent of reported rapes. It would seem that the impact that punishing students for sexual assault, would not affect the enrollment gravely. This campaign could also work on the local and state levels to change policies regarding investigation and prosecution of sexual assault. For example, according to VICE News, New York public hospitals are only required to keep rape kits for 30 days, leaving a small window for anyone trying to find legal justice. This plan would also offer resources and help to victims of sexual assault. These resources could include things such as possible legal representation, protection against threats meant to deter reporting rape to the police, counseling, and most importantly a support system that helps victims feel like they are not alone. A campaign that primarily helps victims and educates people is a better approach as opposed to a campaign that only tries to act as a vigilante and make people fear any kind of sexual contact with women. Even though fear can be a strong deterrent, education and support is much better simply because it comes with a better reaction and a better reputation.
Rape culture needs to disappear because female college students should be able to attend classes and parties without fearing unattended drinks, pushy men who do not take no for an answer, and classmates willing to take advantage of them. All women should have a right to exist without a debilitating fear of being raped in the workplace, in the military, at school, or at clubs and parties. Women should not have to worry about seeing their rapist in class or around campus completely free of punishment. They should not have to worry about their rapist still being their boss at the end of the day. One would assume that everyone would want this to be true as well, however the response to anti rape-culture and feminist movements is harrowing. One can see that one of the main responses to these movements is being concerned that men are now not allowed to even compliment or approach women in class or at a workplace. Essentially making a straw man fallacy, trivializing the argument and completely distracting from the main goal: decreasing the rates of sexual assault and rape. This becomes disgusting when one realizes that women are people too, and not only women experience sexual assault. This goal would help anyone, simply because rape and sexual assault is not exclusively experienced by women. The rates of cases of male victims of sexual assault is so low that it might be speculated that there is more than what is reported. Security from dismantling rape culture has spoils that are enjoyed by everyone.
Now that readers know the implications and consequences of rape culture, they could help work towards the goal of dismantling rape culture. By having an organization that seeks to educate people, help victims, and change statues and policies, there could be an end to this disgusting culture. In the end, everyone is affected by rape culture, not just women, not just college students. Rape is more than just sex, it is a power play intended to dehumanize and subordinate the victim. Rape is an act of violence that can be done to anyone, regardless of whether it happens more often to women or not. Dismantling rape culture is beneficial to everyone. People who are typically victims no longer have to go out and fear rape, and people that are typically culprits have better reputations. The benefits go beyond the immediate victims as well. Crime rates could possibly lower, and there would be a chance that children could live in a society were rape and sexual assault are so uncommon, there would be no need to fear. Trying to end rape culture leads to a better country, a better world, and a better future.
“Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). https://www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence Accessed 5 February 2018.
I used this site to gather most of my statistics on rape in college campuses.
“Fast Facts: College Crime” National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=804 Accessed 5 February 2018.
I used this site as a way to confirm that rape and sexual assault on college campuses was a problem that was prevalent enough to write about.
Jozkowski, Kristen N. ““Yes Means Yes”? Sexual Consent Policy and College Students.” Change, vol. 47, no. 2, Mar/Apr2015, p. 16.
I used this journal for additional statistics, as well as the idea that self blame perpetuates culture when used as a reason to not report rape
Nason, Vanessa. “Public Hospitals in NYC Have Destroyed Over 800 Rape Kits Since 2012.” Vice News https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/d3d5jz/public-hospitals-in-nyc-have-destroyed-over-800-rape-kits-since-2012 Accessed 5 February 2018.
I used this article to showcase bad policy in regards to rape investigation.
Rhode, Deborah L. “RAPE on CAMPUS and in the MILITARY: An Agenda for Reform.” UCLA Women’s Law Journal, vol. 23, no. 1, Summer2016, pp. 1-27.
I used this journal for additional statistics.