Three years ago, I sat in the Abeloff auditorium with hundreds of other incoming freshmen as a campus police officer told us that if we leave our drinks unattended our chances of being drugged and raped increase.
I believe his speech was early in the afternoon but it was probably our third lecture of the day so only half of us were paying attention.
His speech was sandwiched between lectures on how to get our textbooks and where to find clubs on campus or something like that.
I remember there were two men sitting in front of me.
As soon as the officer started talking about how to avoid being raped, the men pulled out their phones and started scrolling and laughing at whatever was on Instagram.
I don’t blame them.
Not only was the speech about 30 percent directed at them, but it’s what we all heard before.
It’s what people (especially women) have been taught since they were old enough to leave the house by ourselves: don’t walk alone, don’t leave your drinks unattended, don’t get too drunk, don’t get raped, don’t get raped, don’t get raped.
Yet, sexual assault and rape are still a major issue on college campuses, especially during the “Red Zone.”
The Red Zone is a period of time from move-in day in August until around Thanksgiving break where there is a spike in sexual assaults and rapes on campus.
According to Dr. Alexandra Solomon of Psychology Today, 50 percent of campus sexual assaults happen during this time, mostly between midnight and 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Most of the sexual assault victims during this time are freshmen, hence why these prevention lectures are marketed toward them.
The theories are that freshmen are more impressionable and more likely drinking and partying for the first time, which apparently, to a perpetrator, makes them an “easy target.”
Even with the countless lectures, pamphlets, self-defense courses, safety apps and so on, why are so many college students still victims of sexual assault and rape?
There are many theories surrounding this exact question (campus culture, lack of convictions for rapists, victim-blaming, etc.)
But I think campuses need to start with changing their prevention methods.
Colleges spend way too much time teaching people how not to be raped instead of getting rapists to not rape.
Having a set of guidelines people have to follow to not be raped creates the idea in the perpetrator’s mind that if someone doesn’t follow these rules they are asking for it.
Now, this may be a leap and may not be in all potential rapists’ minds, but this idea does help the rapist better sniff out who they can take advantage of.
“When we focus solely on the potential victim,” said junior Airyanna Aelkins, a philosophy major and sociology minor.
“It’s pretty much saying ‘well if you don’t follow these rules you’ll get raped and it will be your fault because we told you how to stay safe’ and in reality, a lot of rapes happen in cases without alcohol.
We should be saying ‘hey if you see someone drunk – don’t rape them’ not ‘oh, don’t get drunk or you’ll be put at risk’.”
Teaching people how not to rape may be more complex than teaching victims not to get raped because so many colleges are used to the “here’s how not to get assaulted” prevention methods.
However, some colleges and professors have found that these methods clearly are not working, so they tried a different route.
Cat Pausé, a fat studies scholar at Massey University in New Zealand, uses a rape culture activity in her classroom. According to her post in Inside Higher Ed, Pausé creates a scenario between Mary and Bob, who end up in Mary’s bed and Bob is pulling off her clothes as Mary softly says “no” until she feels as if she has to give in.
Too often, students highlight all that Mary has done “wrong” such as kissing Bob back and inviting him into her room.
Rarely, do they speak on what Bob did wrong.
“Every semester, I am reminded that more work needs to be done,” Pausé writes.
“Being able to bring back students’ responses to the elements of rape culture allows for connections to be made between a “real-life” scenario and the political and ideological intersections within rape culture.”
Other colleges such as Penn State have implemented a by-stander intervention technique.
According to The Guardian, this method focuses on upperclassmen rather than freshmen and teach them the identity predatory behavior and intervene.
The article states that juniors and seniors are much more likely to influence campus culture meaning more people look up to them and are likely to listen to them.
Whether or not ESU or other colleges will change their prevention methods anytime soon is unclear.
What is clear is that parts of our deterrence methods are not working and something needs to be done, nationwide, about sexual assault and rape on campus.
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