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Sexual assault is a very serious issue that has no boundaries and occurs in all different parts of the world, parts where you should feel safe and with people whom you should feel safe with. College is no exception to sexual assault and is, unfortunately, very prevalent on campuses all over the U.S. The victims of any sort of sexual misconduct suffer for the rest of their life and are left with damaging mental health effects, diseases, and even decline in academic involvement.
While there are a few factors that may cause or have lead up to this issue, there are no excuses as to why it should occur.
Most often, many people, especially students, lack education and overall understanding of consent and how it must be used in all instances, no matter the circumstances. Consent is giving permission for a sexual act, or any act, to happen from all parties involved. Lack of consent is most often related to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but these factors do not change the importance of consent.
Even with other substances involved, the definition of consent does not change and the importance of permission, such as a clear “yes”, from anyone involved is still required. Sometimes consent is not received, but just because a person does not say “no”, does not mean they said or meant “yes.” In a study conducted by the Association of American Universities, “11.7% of students from 27 universities reported having experienced non consensual penetration” (Cantor et al.
, “Report on Sexual Assault and Misconduct). In the same study, “33.1% of females had experienced nonconsensual sexual contact by their senior year in college at least once” (Cantor et al., “Report on Sexual Assault and Misconduct). When alcohol and drugs are involved, they continue to play a large factor in these sexual misconduct incidents, but are never to be used as an excuse or a form of justification for any kind of misconduct or misinterpretation of consent. “50% of sexual assaults that occur on college campuses involve the use of alcohol” (Abbey, “Alcohol-Related Sexual Assault”). Society has learned to turn a blind eye to the idea of sexual assault, especially on college campuses, which leaves victims with nowhere to turn and with an even harder time disclosing their stories or their suffering with others and not feeling comfortable enough to seek help. Past cases have also greatly impacted the outcomes of present and future cases, such as many not believing the victims, siding with the aggressors, or even blaming the victims. This increases the probability of someone becoming sexually assaulted because perpetrators are now becoming more familiar with how common it is nowadays for a predator to get away with things like this. One of the most recent cases that is relevant to the idea of “getting away with it” is the People v. Turner case. Brock Turner was found guilty of sexually penetrating an unconscious woman and was later charged with two counts of felony sexual assault and one count of attempted rape (Stack, “Brock Turner Stanford Rape Case”). With these charges, Turner was only sentenced to six months in jail and was released after only serving three months of his full sentence (Cohen, “Stanford Sex Attacker”). The results of this case are very unsettling for anybody to hear, but especially those who have fallen victim to sexual assault. It provides aggressors with the idea that they too can get away with such a horrific act, simply because of their race or “academic background,” and will only encourage them to take advantage of students of both genders, especially when alcohol or drugs are involved.
No one should ever have to endure the consequences of being assaulted sexually, but many victims are forced to and are damaged for the rest of their lives. College students endure plenty of stress, both physically and mentally, but unfortunately, it doesn’t stop at academics for some. Many students are assaulted sexually and even raped in college, which only builds up their stresses. Rape and misconduct are so common in a place where students should feel most safe, where they spend the most of their time. Approximately “⅔ of college students experience some form of sexual assault during their time in college” (“Statistics: Campus Sexual Assault”). These experiences can mentally, physically, and emotionally ruin a person in both short-term and long-term circumstances. The Office on Women’s Health’s research found that “⅓ of college students who are sexual assault victims experience academic problems and ⅕ considered dropping out of school after the incident” (“Sexual Assault on College Campuses”). In many rape cases, there is no protection, such as condoms, between those involved, which can cause many problems later on for victims. Sexually transmitted diseases are transferred through unprotected sex, especially with someone who has more than one partner. The CDC reports that sexual assault victims suffer from many kinds of sexually transmitted diseases, varying from gonorrhea to HIV to herpes, which can all take a toll on someone’s personal life and overall health or well-being (“Sexual Assault and Abuse and STDs”). College is also very expensive for almost every student, from books to tuition and everything in between, especially once sexual assault victims are left to pay to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. It does not stop here though, especially if this victim has tested positive to one of many of these diseases that they received from a sexual act that they did not even want. Everything is at a cost and the victim is the one left to pay the price of treatments for diseases including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, etc. These prices can range from $244-444 and that can take a huge toll on someone financially, especially someone who is also struggling to pay their college tuition and any other expenses that come with receiving a formal education (Chesson et al., “Medical Cost of Sexually Transmitted Diseases”). The mentally and emotionally damaging effects that are result to any kind of sexual misconduct leave victims with more issues that forever change their lives. These include, but are not limited to, depression, eating disorders, extreme stress and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, guilt, and personality disorders (Gluck, “Effects of Rape: Psychological and Physical”). This is extremely disheartening for anyone to endure and it is unfair that so many college students fall victim to this simply because they had one too many drinks, their outfit was “too revealing”, or they just found themselves at the wrong place with the wrong person.
While the majority have empathy for those who have been affected by sexual misconduct, there are still so many people that put the blame on victims, such as their choice of clothing or the amount of drinks they had. Another common misconception is that the majority of victims are lying about their assault, therefore not believing someone who is claiming to have been sexually mistreated. It is actually very hard for a victim to come out about their experiences for a few reasons, such as being afraid of how their family and friends will react or how their attacker will respond. In the college scene, rape and other forms of sexual misconduct happen more often than not and in these instances, most people are scared to come out due to the presence of drugs or alcohol. Students will not disclose their stories to family in fear of them blaming the victim because of how “drunk” they were or how “high” they were. This is not the correct way to respond to a victim’s story, especially given how much courage it took just to come out. Instead, we should help the victim and ensure them that it was not their fault and let them know that they should not have had to suffer because of the skirt they were wearing or the alcohol they were drinking. In a recent case in Ireland, a woman raped, but her attacker was set free because the woman’s choice of underwear was seen as a form of consent to the man (Safronova, “Lawyer in Rape Trial Links Thong With Consent”). This is just one example of why victims, especially women, are so fearful to speak out without being judged or doubted. The number of actual rapes compared to the number of false allegations is incredibly disproportionate and is another reason why not believing a victim is simply ignorant and only adds to the existing problems about rape and misconduct that we already have.
Sexual misconduct in colleges and universities is a widespread issue that needs to be put to an end and we can only do this by spreading awareness and educating. It is disheartening that we have to warn women not to walk on campus alone or not to wear certain items, but for now, it is something that can save someone from such a horrific experience. We must educate our students on more than just math and social sciences, we need to educate them on the idea of consent and proper sexual behaviors. Our society is far from perfect and so are our educational institutions, but there are many steps we can take into providing a safer environment for our students and for anyone who could possibly fall victim to any form of sexual assault, both on and off campus.
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