College is a time of exciting change and transition for many young adults all across America. This time comes with many new experiences, such as moving away from home, thinking about possible careers and meeting an overload of new people. When it comes time to move in on campus, meeting so many people can feel overwhelming and exciting, a welcomed change from the monotony of the same people in high school. However, with this college transition comes a sickening new reality: the very real threat of rape. Now, incoming students have to worry who among them is a rapist. Although anyone can be a victim of rape at any point in life, the risk of being a victim goes up significantly, especially for girls, during college years.
“It is estimated that 1 in 5 women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there — 1 in 5.” -President Obama, Jan. 22, 2014
There will always be critics and skeptics about the reliability of victims and rape statistics, and sadly, I simply find this as proof of the sexism ingrained in our nation. We need to start taking victims at their word, as we would with any other crime. In reality, the proof is mind-blowing. Over a wide variety of studies, both at single universities and across multiple universities, it is collectively proven that roughly 20% of women have been victims of rape or attempted rape. Hearing this statistic should be sickening. What’s more troubling is that even these solid studies can be skewed due to the amount of women that choose not to report their rape or sexual assault. Many rapes and assaults go unreported, making the numbers potentially much higher. Additionally, not all sexual assault involves rape, and can include any number of acts, from unwanted kissing to touching and other harassment. When this scope is broadened, almost 30% of female college seniors report some form of sexual assault just since starting their college career.
With overwhelming proof of rape on campus, one would think universities would take the initiative to put an end to this. However, with further investigation, colleges and universities are blatantly doing nothing to demonstrate they value their students. For example, colleges and universities are required by law to report the number of crimes on campus under the federal Clery Act, however, the government has been suspicious of schools underreporting rape to create the illusion that their campus is safe. In one recent study, the government monitored 31 schools to make sure the reports were correct. During the time of these government audits, it was found that the schools then began reporting occurrences of sexual assault up to 44% higher. When the audits finished, they returned to the low reported numbers. To me, this says that schools care more about appearing as though they have a safe campus, rather than actually creating a safe campus.
I started to wonder where these rapes are happening. In fact, rape isn’t always the stereotypical stranger in the parking lot or dark ally. Rape is happening at parties, around “friends,” and even within relationships. Many times, alcohol and drugs are involved, often used as a sign that the victim can be easily taken advantage of. Even more specifically, these rapes are occurring in specified areas. Although rape can happen anywhere at anytime, there is something to be said about the culture of partying and drinking, especially seen in fraternities. In fact, multiple studies have found college men in fraternities are three times more likely to rape than the average college student. Part of this is from this culture of male peer support and “brotherhood” which can cause the men involved to want to keep secrets, encourage each other towards bad behavior, or otherwise participate in things they normally would not. Alcohol is highly encouraged within Greek life, which can add to the atmosphere of peer pressure. A new study done by the Harvard School of Public Health found that 86% of fraternity residents are binge drinkers. This fits into information given by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which finds that half of (reported) rape involves alcohol consumption. Keeping this in mind, it is obvious how college binge drinkers can so easily perpetuate rape and rape culture.
Why do we not stop this? Sadly, many rape and assault incidents go unreported by the victim as well as the institution, so consequently, people are unaware of the problem, which leads to victims not being taken seriously. Ignoring the problem also has a lot to with keeping the school’s image and keeping donations up. In fact, as reported by the North American Interfraternity Conference, Greek life alumni give about 75% of all money donated to universities. That being said, in no way does this mean there is one specific person or group to blame for the epidemic of rape on college campus, but when I hear, for example, that in 2010 fraternity brothers from Yale University marched around campus chanting “No means yes, yes means anal”, I strongly believe this is an indicator of a problem.
I love my college campus and I am so inspired by the people around me and the new opportunities. We all need to have pride in our school, support our fellow students, and be passionate about the fact that we are learning and contributing to the world. We need to be proud of ourselves and proud of our campus, and that means also recognizing its flaws. Colleges and universities across the nation not taking rape and sexual assault victims seriously is an indicator of our current day rape culture, where rape is swept under the rug while victims are blamed. By leading change on our campuses, we can make a change in our nation’s overall culture. It is time for our society to start recognizing rape and how it is perpetuated in all situations. Everyone on campus is responsible for coming together in solidarity to say women’s bodies are more important than colleges’ profits and image. In fact, I believe college campuses taking the initiative to admit to a sexual assault problem will make them more desirable to attend. When perpetrators understand their actions will be taken seriously, and victims feel they are being taken seriously, the college environment becomes more safe for everyone as they concentrate on the great aspects of what college is truly about.