Thoughts on Rape Culture

By Julia McDermott, Sports Editor

Since I was 4 years old, my parents have been teaching me not to talk to strangers. Don’t interact with anyone you don’t know. Don’t let someone take you somewhere without us. Don’t accept anything from a person if you don’t know who they are. But since I was 4 years old, I have learned that sometimes I can’t help but break those rules.
I am an ambitious, college-bound senior girl. I am excited for my future, for the nights out in college, the new friends and the new independence that living away from my parents will bring. As far as school, I am ready. My teachers have given me test after test, assignment after assignment that mimics “college level” material.
But as I live in a suburban town, hang out with friends that I have known since elementary school and attend a remarkably safe, relatively crime-free high school, no one can prepare me for the staggeringly reality of the fact that according to a 2014 National Institute of Justice report, I have a one in five chance of being sexually assaulted in college.
A girl is never allowed to fully relax. No matter the party, the people she is with, or how safe she may feel, there is always that daunting risk of becoming part of the thousands of girls who are sexually assaulted at college every year.
According to a Dec. 2014 Time Magazine article, there were 5,983 college sexual assaults in the 2014 fiscal year, a number probably even unrealistically low due to sexual assault being “one of the most underreported crimes.”
Women as a gender have a one in four chance of being sexually assaulted or raped over the course of their lifetimes according to a 2006 National Institute of Justice survey, but why are the statistics so high for such a concentrated time period? The answer lies in the college culture that America prides itself in.
Women are constantly being objectified, encouraged to wear the most minimal of clothing and drink more alcohol than is safe, all to win the approval and admiration of the males who are letting them into parties based on the aforementioned criteria.
The modern college female is constantly faced with the decision of whether to submit to the social norms and party expectations of her classmates while sacrificing her own ability to fully protect herself, or to make more conservative choices in regards to outward displays of promiscuity while sacrificing social status.
It is a shame that girls who are only looking for a night to let go after a week of classes face more stress when “relaxing” at the end of the week, than they do during the grueling hours of class.
However, this culture is unlikely to change. Boys will continue to objectify the girls that walk through the door of a party, party-goers will drink until all judgments are lost, and girls will continue to be raped and sexually assaulted, all within university gates.
When any student commits to attending a school, they are agreeing to the unspoken promise that they will be safe and protected in their new home. So the real problem lies in how colleges choose to deal with this issue when female students come forward about sexual assault.
The party is over, the hangover has passed and when a young sexually assaulted female student is sitting in her dorm wondering what her next action should be, she is often faced with a sad truth; it is, in many cases, unlikely that the university will take serious action to combat the crimes committed against its students.
According to a Nov. 2014 New York Times article, only 35 percent of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to the police in 2013.
It is not uncommon for victims to be accused of shaming the school and disgracing its reputation, ruining their own in the process.
Most colleges use a “college judicial process” where a board of college administrators decides how to penalize a student.
According to a Feburary 2014 article, published by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, when sent through college judicial processes, only 10 to 25 percent of accused assailants are permanently kicked out after being accused, despite the fact that over 130 colleges have received federal funding to combat sexual assault.
Female victims are constantly being seen as “attention seeking” and “pity hungry,” when merely trying to voice their stories and effect a change in their community. And that, above all else, is the disgusting truth about college sexual assaults in America and is what will continue to perpetuate and encourage them.
According to the Center for Public Integrity article, up to 90 percent of all punishments dolled out by colleges for sexual assault are described as “minor sanctions.” All the victim leaves with is the stigma of being “the girl who cried rape.”
It is a practice that is shameful to the students, teachers, administrators and institution of American education itself that females cannot feel safe on their own campus, especially appalling when, according to a Nov. 2014 New York Times article, more than 90 percent of campus rapes are committed by a relatively small percentage of college men — possibly as few as four percent — who rape repeatedly, averaging six victims each, who could be stopped after the first victim by stronger legislation.
I am a female, college-bound, high school senior, and when I look at my future, I am faced with the frightening reality that if I am included in the 20 percent to experience sexual assault or rape, there is most likely nothing I can do about it.