According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2017).
11.2% of all college students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. Statistics from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) confirm that “every two minutes in the United States, someone is raped, and the chances of being that victim are four times greater for a female college student than for any other age group” (Burnett et. al, 2009). Sexual assault is the most underreported crime in the country and that is highly due to the way that universities and police handle cases. It is estimated that less than 20% of female students aged 18-24 report their sexual assaults (RAIIN, 2016). The prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses has increased drastically within the past decade and the procedures by which the university addresses these situations has failed victims and their families. In addition to the lack of procedure, role power plays a crucial part in how the perpetrator is punished for the crime.
When women, especially college-aged, are surrounded by rape culture, they often feel that the sexual assault was their fault. They believe that if they had dressed in different clothing, drank less, or done something differently, they wouldn’t have been assaulted. College rape culture is the most dangerous because the social pressures cause most victims to shy away from reporting the crime. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) states that “out of every 100 rapes, 46 get reported, 12 lead to an arrest, 9 get prosecuted, 5 lead to a felony conviction, and 3 rapists will spend even a single day in prison- the other 97 will walk free” (RAINN).
Rape culture is especially common among fraternities and athletes at universities. Social pressures force college aged men to look, act, and behave in manners that express extreme masculinity. According to one study, 35% of fraternity men reported having forced someone into sexual intercourse (Bohmer & Parrot, 1993). In another survey of ten Division I schools, male athletes accounted for 3.3% of the student body, but were responsible for 19% of the sexual assaults (Burnett et. al., 2009).
Cases such as Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, show that campuses need to take bigger and better steps of implicating a system that will prevent sexual assaults from happening and if the unfortunate act does occur, there is a procedure that will ensure the safety and privacy of the victim and their family by enforcing proper sexual assault laws.
On January 18, 2015, Brock Turner changed a 22 year old woman’s life forever. After attending a Kappa Alpha fraternity party at Stanford University with her younger sister, the victim was sexually assaulted behind a dumpster by Turner. The victim was extremely intoxicated and unconscious when the assault happened and was in complete shock when she awoke in the hospital to hear police officers informing her of the events that took place the night before. The victim chose to go forward with the prosecution of the suspect but opted to remain anonymous (People v. Brock Allen Turner, 2016). There was public outrage when Brock Turner was sentenced to just three months in the county jail after being found guilty of three felonies: intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and penetration of an unconscious person with a foreign object. Sexual assault cases such as this one are often controversial because of the differing laws between states.
After Turner's sentencing, Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) was formed. This group of students focuses on preventing sexual assault on college campuses. Post Brock Turner, ASAP got 67,000 signatures on a petition stating that Stanford should make a statement to the victim of the attack. ASAP has done studies that proves that the effect of Brock Turner’s case is that student victims are now even less likely to report their assaults. The study shows and proves that the way a university handles a rape case creates a ripple effect into the future.
Stanford should have immediately released a statement in support of the victim and her family. In highly publicized cases like Turner’s, the media exposed Stanford for the way they handle their sexual assault cases. The university did not support the victim, her family, or even make a statement until a year after the incident which proves that the university was worried that the incident would damage the image and reputation of the university. This act causes future sexual assault victims to feel reluctant to report their cases. The lack of support at Stanford and college campuses across the country is one of the main reasons sexual assault victims remain silent. With stronger confidential counseling services, victims would be able to seek help if they needed or wanted to discuss the events.
California is one of the many states that has a very lenient definition of rape which allows sexual assaults to be deemed less impactful. Brock Turner received a light sentencing in California because the sexual assault victim was unconscious when the incident occurred. If, for example, Turner had been in his home state of Ohio, he would have received a much longer prison sentence because Ohio has a statutory law that specifically states the situation of an unconscious victim. California lacks the specific case of unconscious victims stated in any of their sexual assault laws which allowed Brock Turner to receive a much lighter jail sentence than what the public believed he should have gotten. Brock Turner’s famous case has forced California legislation to be pressured into taking action to improve the judicial punishment for sexual assault perpetrators (FindLaw, 2017).
Sexual assault laws differ in each state which causes legal issues when prosecuting a perpetrator. In South Carolina, the sexual assault laws are very defined. The law states that a person must verbally consent to any sexual contact. If a person has any alcohol or substance in their body, they cannot legally, fully consent.
To help victims of sexual assault, colleges need to have a proper way to handle cases. Every university should have a confidential outlet for victims to go to when they need help discussing, reporting, or dealing with their assaults. In addition to better university confidentiality, the universities need to make sure that they are publicly and privately supporting the victims and their families. Universities need to assure that students know that there will be harsh punishment for any sexual assault and that this behavior will not be tolerated. Universities must ensure that they take a public stance on sexual assault which will better ensure that victims feel safe and supported.
To Report at Incident at Clemson University:https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?ClemsonUniv