What can we do about it?
In order to stop these things from happening, educational programs on sexual assault should be implemented on college campuses, students should be trained on how to stop sexual assault if they see it happening, and harsher consequences for committing sexual assault should be implemented.
Alcohol and Drugs
The increased use of alcohol in college plays a prodigious role in sexual assaults occurring on campus. Many states recognize that when someone is drunk, he or she cannot give consent. Therefore, if you have sex with someone who is passed out or unable to give consent, it is considered sexual assault.
Additionally, intoxication can never be used in defense of someone who commits sexual assault. Also, alcohol impairs judgement and lowers inhibitions, which can make someone more likely to force sex on an unwilling partner. Alcohol can also slow reflexes and impair the victim’s ability to recognize a dangerous situation ("Top Ten Facts About Sexual Assault"). Alcohol is such a big problem in sexual assault, “that at least 80% of college students who had unwanted sex were under the influence of alcohol” (“Top Ten Facts about Sexual Assault”).
Why some victims are too scared to tell the truth
It is not uncommon for victims of sexual assault to stay quiet and put off telling what happened to them. The reasons that victims may not come forward range from emotional trauma and fear of authority to a lack of clarity of what exactly sexual assault constitutes. Many victims ask themselves “what if no one believes me?” or “how do I prove abuse” and these questions prevent them from speaking up (Miller). Most victims believe that since they don’t have hard evidence, no one will believe them. Most victims only think this way because of how the history of reporting sexual assault has played out.
The first step to reporting sexual assault is going to the police, but this is where most of the reports stop because police sometimes tell women they are not prosecuting and will go no further. On top of police not wanting to prosecute, society also tends to blame victims and female victims, in particular, they are accused of “ruining” the man who committed the assault (Miller).
Another reason that victims don’t speak out is because of the outdated belief that “good women don’t get raped” and these beliefs can lead to the victims believing it is their own fault (Miller). Victims can be asked questions such as, “why were you in that place at the time?” and “why did you go to that person’s room?” (Miller). These questions often shift the blame from the perpetrator to the victim.
Victims may also feel personal embarrassment and reliving the assault can be a painful experience and the experience can be even harsher if no one believes the victim. There’s a burden from society upon people who speak out, so most victims will stay quiet and try to move past the assault.
In one article, Vice President Joe Biden says, “no matter what she’s wearing, no matter whether she’s in a bar, in a dormitory, in the back seat of a car, on a street, drunk or sober — no man has a right to go beyond the word no. And if she can’t consent, it also means no” (Dvorak).
Victim blaming is defined as when someone says it is the fault of the victim for being sexually assaulted or raped. Several examples of victim blaming include blaming it on what the victim was wearing, on the influence of drugs or alcohol, or the location of the sexual assault.
Especially on college campuses, where binge drinking is very prevalent, it has been proven that many authorities and students blame sexual assault on binge drinking. One student at the U.S. Naval Academy was told she could not testify because she had drank too much alcohol and that this would cloud her testimony (Dvorak). It is not up to the court to decide how much this student had to drink, as they were not present the night of the assault. As a result of this event and several events like this one, events and classes at universities across the country should educate students on how to stop sexual assault when or before it starts.
Victims are also blamed for what they are wearing and where and when they are in a certain location for sexual assault. One student explains, "that's not a society I want to live in, where I have to look out for what I wear. I think that's a basic human right," she says. "And we don't tell men to not get blackout drunk" (Smith). Several people believe that women who wear provocative clothing are "asking to be raped". This belief does not blame the person for committing the act, but puts the blame towards the victim saying they were asking for it. The victim has no control over someone else's actions, and, therefore, cannot force someone to sexually assault them based on what they are wearing.
What can we do to help?
Since sexual assault on college campuses is an important issue that shouldn’t go unnoticed colleges should…
• Implement harsher punishments for perpetrators
o Universities like Harvard and Michigan have created separate offices to deal with sexual assault cases (Howard).
• Create bystander intervention classes
o These programs can teach bystanders how and when to intervene in the cases of sexual violence
• Be involved in national campaigns
o These events can raise awareness and help to victims
o A few campaigns to be a part of
- The White Ribbon Campaign
- The Clothesline Project
- Take Back the Night
- It’s on Us
- International Day of Victim-Blaming