Sexual Assault: An On Campus Struggle
“Sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.” This following sentence was taken from a letter the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights sent to colleges and universities regarding a new law called Title IX. However, this implemented law did not protect one of my closest friends against her perpetrator at NYU. In order to find a solution to this problem, society and school institutions need to realize that there is an issue harming college campuses across the country: sexual assault. Over the last few years, documentary films such as The Hunting Ground, clearly depict the struggles women face when it comes to speaking out about their sexual abuse. Such films hit close to home because as a college freshman, I ask myself — what if it happened to me? In fact, through multiple experiences I have simply discovered the cold hearted truth: women are always at a disadvantage. As a strong advocate for women’s rights, I was able to understand the pain and frustration one feels when presented with a social injustice. [Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that sexual assault, which is defined as any sexual contact that is not consensual, is a nightmare that colleges and universities frequently face more and more each year.] Nonetheless, the question is simple: why?
Imagine having fun at your first college party but by the end of the night, having someone physically stronger rape you. Every year, colleges and universities brag about their acceptance and graduation rates, but they hardly talk about the dangers that occur on their campuses. Sexual assault on college campuses is an on going problem that most institutions try to hide. Even though sexual assault can happen anywhere, college campuses have a duty to support and protect their students from any type of sexual abuse. However, due the disregard and lack of support from their school institutions, women are being the constant targets of sexual assault. From a women’s perspective, it is extremely degrading that school officials just seem to sit there and do nothing about the physical pain or psychological trauma a victim is facing.
When stepping foot onto a college campus, a student’s top priority should be their education, not the fear of being sexually assaulted. A college campus is the home to thousands of students whose awareness about sexual assault is very limited. At San Francisco State University, sexual assault happens quite frequently but students never seem to find out about it. According to Jon Krakauer in his NYTimes article, “How Much Should a University Have to Reveal About a Sexual Assault Case”, the reason behind the the silence is because “universities want to deny public access to information that might blemish their reputations.” Colleges and universities understand that students do not want to attend a campus where sexual assault is known to occur often. Without the financial support from their students, institutions would be ruined. Therefore, as a solution, they hide all the evidence and history regarding sexual assault. Being aware of your school’s history is essential in preventing other sexual assaults from happening. The more informed you are, the more precautions you can take.
Over the years, statistcis have shown that women are the constant targets of sexual assault. Perpetrators find it extremely easy to get away with sexual assault, because they know their schools have a reputation to protect and will not go out of their way to bring attention to themselves. Because of this, the article, “Confusion About College Sexual Assault”, written by the New York Times Editorial Board explains that “one in five women who attend college is assaulted before [they] graduate.” The fact that my best friend or myself could be victims of sexual assault is both sickening and terrifying. College campuses are supposed to be the home away from home, a place where their parents believe are attending a safe institution. But with the constant lack of attention, it is becoming difficult to hide. The risk of getting sexually assaulted on college campuses should be zero, because a student should be able to make her own decisions about having sexual contact with others and not be forced into it. The fact that the statistics are so high means that the problem is not being solved.
However, living with constant fear is definitely not a solution to this problem. Colleges and universities such as SFSU and other CSU’s should open their eyes and see that sexual assault on college campuses deserves far more attention that it is receiving. Justice to the victims should be made and laws such as Title IX should be enforced on the perpetrators. In the New York Times article, “Colleges Groups Connect to Fight Sexual Assault”, Richard Perez Pena states that “people [who are] brought up on charges tend to agree that campus disciplinary systems are amateurish, but they contend that the result is inadequate protection for the rights of the accused.” The fact that people think the legal system is a joke proves that the punishment is not taken seriously as all. Victims who report their sexual assault feel that there is no need to. But if victims never report, the doors open to an endless cycle of abuse.
Overall, it is indeed crucial for students to be aware of the horrors that occur on their college campuses. Although sexual assault is often an uncomfortable subject to talk about, students need to reach out to victims and offer support rather than hate. They must also realize that it is nearly impossible for all CSU schools, including San Francisco State, to have a small percentage of sexual assaults on record, knowing that parties are thrown every weekend. But I strongly believe colleges and universities should work hard to reinforce laws such as Title IX, and open up emergency hotlines for those in need. With this in mind, schools should provide a better understanding of the moral support students need on campus and the realities of the dangers these students face.