Post 1: Rape Reform Policies on College Campuses

How I Became Interested In This Topic:

My first experience with college culture was one that exhilarated me. I had just turned 16 and visited my sister at college, she was attending UC Santa Cruz. We walked around the serene campus, enjoyed lunch in the dining hall, and went to a local watering hole which was flooded with college kids. However, the real fun came when the sun set and we traveled deep into the forest surrounding the campus. That night, spent with my sister and her new college friends sipping alcohol for the first time, excited me and I became eager to find a college that I could soon call my own. When I finally found my place here at San Francisco State University (SFSU), although I love it, I saw a slightly darker side to life on campus. Through my experiences thus far at SFSU and that of other women at Universities across the nation, it became incredibly apparent to me that rape on college campuses is an overwhelming issue and must be addressed through policies set by the University or of the students attending it.

Attention from Media and Universities:

Most recently, sparking the topic further, is the Stanford University case involving Brock Turner that Eilene Zimmerman phrases in her article titled, “Campuses Struggle with Approaches for Preventing Sexual Assault”, “In the ensuing two years, the national conversation about sexual assault on campuses has intensified, culminating this month in an enormous outcry over a sexual assault case at Stanford.” With all of this unwanted attention on Universities in America, colleges are finally improving their sexual assault prevention as well as education programs. But has it been enough? Zimmerman also states how the number of sexual assault incidents has been on the rise. To support these results Zimmerman interviewed several young women who attend colleges like The University of California Berkeley and The University of Southern California. These women state that the courses that their schools offer to prevent sexual assault were not effective. I too took an online course when first attending San Francisco State University that laid out scenarios involving sexual assault and how to avoid it. I found the course educational; however, once I began experiencing college night life, I found that it did not translate into the majority of my peers, especially men. The central theme of each party I went to was the enjoyment of objectifying women. So how do we actually fix this issue and change the mindset that is affecting the lives of so many college women and men daily?

Finding A Solution:

It is obvious that action must be taken to be able to create a positive difference in the amount of sexual violence on college campuses. What isn’t obvious is how we do this. That is why I have researched several steps that will better this devastating matter.

What The University Can Do:

Deborah Tuerkheimer in the New York Times article, “Reforming Rape Policies on College Campus” touches on solutions to this popular question. Tuerkheimer lays out a plan of action that roots back to the underlining issue. Discrimination. Tuerkheimer’s plan instructs institutions of higher education to first, not put the responsibility of preventing sexual assault on women and their behavior. Second, colleges should offer support to those who have experienced sexual assault, and lastly, universities have to hold perpetrators of rape accountable for their actions. This strategy of giving the task of reform on rape policies to the university is much needed. Universities have been obliged to follow the law of equality in education, Title XI, for decades; however, it is more obvious than ever that more action needs to be taken by colleges themselves.

What Students Can Do:

Something that has been apparent to me since I have been in college is that students have been just as impactful on the campus, if not more, as the university and its faculty. Although it is very much the universities responsibility to strive to prevent sexual assault, it is also ours. Many colleges have actually proved this and shown that we can create programs that successfully diminish the amount of sexual assault. In Zimmerman’s article, she introduces the Green Dot program, developed by the University of Kentucky in 2008, which trains the student to defuse possibly dangerous situations. Being one of the few programs that contains data on sexual assault, Zimmerman states that, “A five-year study evaluating the program’s effectiveness in Kentucky high schools found a decrease of more than 50 percent in the frequency of sexual assaults by students in schools that received the training”. She lists a couple others including the Get Explicit 101 by the University of Oregon and a Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team. Programs like these have proven to be effective and that is why it is crucial for students to take a stand for their own lives and safety on campus.

What The Community Can Do:

Even though rape on college campuses seems to be what everyone is talking about lately, actually being on a college campus, it is not. Sexual assault seems to be incredibly unmentioned and almost ineffable. Although I saw the culture of prejudice and objectification of women first hand, I wasn’t sure if it went any deeper than that facade. When my mind was finally opened to the seriousness and frequency of rape on college campuses was when I watched the film “The Hunting Ground”. This documentary style film interviews several victims of sexual assault at universities around the country. These women and men, recall sexual assault incidents they were victims of and also the institutions’ weak responses. While many have supported the film there has been a sufficient amount of backlash. In Carl Buckley’s article, “Professors Dispute Depiction of Harvard Case in Rape Documentary” that type of reprisal that the film received, specifically by Harvard staff, through claims that the film depicts a false representation of one of their students and his case Buckley however, does include a quote by Diane L. Rosenfeld, a Harvard law lecturer, stating, “The documentary has created an important conversation about campus sexual assault…We need to be rolling up our sleeves and really figuring out what kind of preventative education programs to develop which create a culture of sexual respect.” This attitude of defending the rapist at all costs is what we need to stray away from and remember who the real victim is.

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