Adria Kelly-Sullenger #26107370 April 8, 2014 Sexual Assault & the American University System – Approaches & Reactions How many people do you think you walk by in a day? It doesn’t even have to be a large number to relate to the current statistic of sexual assault survivors. All it takes is three women.1 Out of that group chances are at least one of them has been sexually assaulted in her lifetime. For men that number is doubled to one in every six.2 If you’re on a college campus one in every five of the women you see has been sexually abused while in university.3 Is that more then you thought? The statistic on the number of victims of sexual violence has been recorded for years and at this point in time, rape has become a norm in American society. There is even a term for it: Rape Culture. This horrific crime occurs every two minutes in the United States and until very recently there were little to no movements to address it.4 It seems as though rape has become too taboo to discuss and this socially-mandated silence is causing a ripple of ignorance and an unfortunate stagnancy in the support for the victims or the prevention of the crimes. There is an alarming amount of sexual assaults that occur on college campuses, and the naiveté of the faculty and lack of support for survivors at these institutions is a serious problem. Four years ago Angie Epifano, a freshman at Amherst College, was raped in a dorm room and attempted to report the crime to Ramanathan, Kumar. "World Health Organization: Violence Against Women Is An ‘Epidemic’ Global Health Problem." ThinkProgress RSS. World Health Organization, 20 June 2013. Web. 2 Hopper, Jim, Ph.D. "Sexual Abuse of Males: Statistics, Possible Lasting Effects, and Resources." N.p., 28 Mar. 2012. Web. 3 Kessler, Glenn. "One in Five Women in College Sexually Assaulted: The Source of This Statistic." The Washington Post, 01 May 2014. Web. 4 "How Often Does Sexual Assault Occur?" Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 the university. The response she received was atrocious; they told her she could not move dorm buildings. This, along with the sexual assault counselor asking her “are you sure it was rape?…. you should forgive and forget.” She was even sent to a psychological health ward in the local hospital. Her rapist graduated with honors while Epifano dropped out due to the stresses of being on a campus that refused to support her. 5 Sadly, Epifanos’ story is not unique. At universities across the country, students attempt to report sexual assault with little response or none at all. Even colleges that have support programs in place cannot regulate all of the sex-related crimes related to campus. University of Massachusetts is one of these, according to Senior Annie Khan. During her freshman year she was brought to a fraternity house, where 55 percent of college gang rapes occur, and was sexually assaulted multiple times throughout the night.6 This was only two months after the beginning of the school year and for Khan college was suddenly terrifying. She immediately told a friend of the experience and was guided to the Center for Women and Community. The support she received there was per her words “the only reason why” she “returned to UMass for the spring semester.” In the center she could go to weekly sessions with a therapist and was given a form to report her rapists to both the university and the police department.7 Khan states, “even though there was tremendous support…it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.” And that seems 5 Epifano, Angie. "An Account of Sexual Assault at Amherst College." The Amherst Student, 17 Oct. 2012. Web. 6 O'Sullivan, C. "Acquaintance Gang Rape on Campus." In A. Parrot and L. Bechhofer (eds.) Acquantaince Rape: The Hidden Crime. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1991. 7 "UMass Amherst Everywoman's Center." Center for Women and Community. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, n.d. Web. to be the root of the problem. Colleges work to support the survivors but there aren’t enough programs in place for rape prevention. This has been the new goal universities have been striving for in the last few years . The University of Massachusetts Amherst launched their advertisement campaign for “active bystander intervention” this year, and many look at the program with hope that intervening at parties will soon become the next “designated driver” of sorts .8 New York Times writer Mike Winerip believes the campaign “has great potential” because “it’s not based on idealism, it’s based on protecting a friend.” In writing a piece on the programs implemented at universities to prevent rape and to address the culture surrounding it, witness accounts would be my primary approach taken. Since there are so many varying experiences each survivor had with their schools, this would be an impactful way to add a personable side to a difficult story. The next, and most vital, goal is to illuminate the issue of how victims are consequently treated by their peers. This is closely linked to the definition of “rape culture” in which the survivor is blamed in some manner for the rape occurring. Some of more common inquiries made to the survivors of rape or sexual assault are the infamous “what were you wearing?” and “how much did you drink?” The more often the survivors are given the blame, the worse the problem gets. It makes it so that rape is no longer the focal point, and people begin concentrating on the issue of binge drinking or, even more ridiculously, inappropriate or bold 8 Rivais, Larry. "UMass Amherst Launches Second Phase of UMatter at UMass Initiative to Build Community, Prevent Sexual Assault." University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 22 Jan. 2014. Web. clothing. This was shown when writer Emily Yoffe posted the article “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk.” Simply titled, the article states that if women in college stopped drinking then they would stop being raped.9 This is a widespread belief; that if there was less drinking in college life then there would be lower numbers of sexual assault. While this may be true, under no circumstances is the victim of rape responsible for the occurrence of the crime. In the last few months, our Federal government has taken huge steps towards retrofitting the social welfare programs at universities to ensure the safety and support of all students. One of the most public measures taken was a list posted by the U.S. Department of Education. It was comprised of the names of 55 colleges that are to be investigated for their methods of dealing with sexual assault . All of the institutions on the list have a reason to be there, even the ones that agreed to the inspection. The University of Massachusetts Amherst made it on the list with nearby Amherst College, Occidental and Dartmouth being a few of the other names. They are being examined to see if they are in compliance with Title IX, which forbids any discrimination based on sex in federally funded institutions .10 Maya Rissoli, an intern for the Department of Education, says “the last few weeks have been super hectic” and that she “can’t wait to finally start revealing some of the greasy actions colleges have been taking.” Rissoli isn’t the only person excited for there to finally be 9 Yoffe, Emily. "The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting So Wasted." Slate Magazine, 13 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 "U.S. Department of Education Releases List of Higher Education Institutions with Open Title IX Sexual Violence Investigations." U.S. Department of Education. N.p., 1 May 2014. Web. a program illuminating the wrong-doings of these campuses. The U.S. Department of Education announced the list the day after Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) ended. This month was a push for awareness about sexual assault and most of the marketing for it was online.11 Twitter handles #RapeCultureIsWhen and #TrackingAssault were two of the more popular of that time period. #RapeCultureIsWhen encourages people to describe what they think rape culture is and what they want to change about it. 12 #TrackingAssault was started by Al Jazeera America and created a forum for people to report who assaulted them, including where and when it happened so there would be a list compiled.13 Forums like this are going to be vital in the future because it gives the survivors a voice in a public forum. With the focus on universities, much of the piece written would be about the relationship between the faculty and students. The investigation of this is vital to the success of these support programs because the more invested the staff is, the more successful the programs will be. To proceed, I would interview the Chancellors of a few of the colleges on the Department of Educations’ list to see what their responses were and to request an explanation of their plan of action for preventing future sexual assault on their campus. I would also talk to parents and see how comfortable they are with sending their children away from home to university when there is such high risk for sexual assault and what they think the schools should do to lower 11 "Sexual Assault Awareness Month." Sexual Assault Awareness Month. National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), n.d. Web. 12 "#RapeCultureIsWhen." Twitter. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Khan, Azmat. "Help Us Track Sexual Assault." America Tonight. Al Jazeera America, 1 Apr. 2014. Web. the risk. The last group I would talk to is different groups of students. The accounts told to me by the few I interviewed were astonishing and their voices would give a power to the story that could not be found anywhere else. With sexual assault being such a major social issue there needs to be a push by the media to advocate awareness and instigate change. Without a couple of powerful and revealing pieces, which have existed in the past but didn’t get enough readership to wake people up from the “rape culture” mindset, society will continue to function as is. It is unacceptable for 33% of the U.S. population falling victim to sexual assault without anything being done about it. 14 This is especially true in universities, where we send the minds of our future to grow and be shaped. Do we want our future leaders scarred by sexual assault, when steps could have been taken to prevent it? The kind of country we live in is one of freedom; lets take the steps to make it one of public safety too. 14 Ramanathan, Kumar. "World Health Organization: Violence Against Women Is An ‘Epidemic’ Global Health Problem." ThinkProgress RSS. World Health Organization, 20 June 2013. Web.