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Though the college experience is oftentimes one of personal growth, increasing social life, and educational opportunity, campuses are faced with the rising issue of sexual assault and how to handle allegations every single day. It is reported that up to 11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault, and only handful of those victims are reporting it (Rainn). Reasons as to why the report levels aren’t higher has to do with campus policies and their reputation on how they handle the issue at hand.
In order for colleges to avoid discrepancies on their campus or bad reputations, they unfortunately, tend to keep these types of matters in the dark. However, efforts have been instated to promote awareness and promote education sexual harassment and rape on general terms. Campuses have observed that alcohol/drugs, low reports, and overall peer pressure are the general factors that lead to sexual harassment charges and rape.
College is usually a place where young people are on their own for the first time and get a chance to really experiment with both sex and alcohol.
Oftentimes the combination can lead to inappropriate or even dangerous situations for young women and sometimes, young men. Based off of just the mass media, drugs and more consistently alcohol, are both considered to be pivotal moments in the college experience, however their recreational abuse aids in leading reports of sexual harassment (Mintz). In some cases, the aggressor will use some form of substance to lower the victim’s resistance or decrease their ability to fight back by discretely inserting it into an alcoholic beverage, which is considered a “date rape drug”.
At least one-half of all violent crimes involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim, or both (Collins and Messerschmidt 1993). Sexual assault fits this pattern a little too well. Hence, across the contrasting populations studied, researchers routinely have found that roughly one half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who had been drinking alcohol preceding the attack (NIAAA). It is also crucial to emphasize that although a woman’s alcohol consumption can lead her to a dangerous place with an increased risk of sexual assault, she is still in no way responsible for the attack. The perpetrators are legally and morally responsible for their actions and can only be judged upon their own behavior. To tie some loose ends, alcohol consumption at college campuses is at an all time high, and rules and regulations regarding underage drinking and consumption laws in general, aren’t necessarily at the top of the priority list.
Unfortunately, the victims of assault oftentimes do not prioritize reporting their attacks. Only 20% of female students reported their abuse to the authorities. In most cases, this is because women fear they could be belittled, no one would listen, or they’d be shamed for putting themselves in an unsafe environment. Often, the suspects of sexual assault are defended over the victim, who is then shamed or even scolded for behavior seen to be contributing to the assault. It should also be considered that most victims of sexual assault know their defiler on some sort of personal level. As reported by RAINN, around seven out of ten sexual assaults are carried out by someone the victim knows. This is another factor contributing to women underreporting their assaults. A victim who withholds from telling anyone, out of fear they’ll be shunned or won’t be believed, is even less likely to report abuse from a boyfriend/girlfriend, a mother or father, a teacher, or a teammate (NIAAA). This unfavorable truth stems from a victim’s stereotyped and corrupted assumption that they are less likely to be believed in such a situation. Regrettably, the media in terms of a range between news channels and award-winning Hollywood movies, there isn’t much of a voice or safe place for these victims to tell their stories without second guessing if it’d be worth the slander and bashing they’d receive. Lastly, when women have confided in close individuals, they are often advised to ignore it, forget it, and move on. The oppression of emotional warfare that exists in the minds of the victims isn’t a big enough headline to be considered noteworthy or pressing enough to call a change to.
Peer pressure plays a role in sexual assault as well. These young adults are on their own for the first time, some of them breaking the shackles of a 9:00 curfew off their wrists, and finally able to be free and participate in activities they couldn’t so much do with their parents around. Students may feel pressured to participate in unfortunate popular social activities like drinking, drug use, hopping from party to party, or even going so far as engaging in sexual activities that aren’t uncomfortable to them. There is a lot of tension, especially, for students to drink, leading to situations where women may consume more alcohol than they intend, leaving them vulnerable to assault (Mintz). This comes from dismantled portrayals and identity crisis within them, so they reach for a bubbly friend to make them more, “comfortable.” The limit a person is willing to drink is usually based on however much their friends are or as much as it seems the people around them are ingesting. If they perceive that their peers are drinking a lot, they will take normal precautions to match them, even if their perception is inaccurate. With skewed views on how to fit in and colleges past the inspirational posters that middle schools are holding onto, instead of finding friends, students are turning to alcohol, which in turn is becoming the cause of sexual assault crimes on campuses across the United States (RAINN).
Sexual assault is spreading across colleges with no intention to slow down because of alcohol abuse, women not reporting their attack, and students feeling pressured to act in a certain way when in college situations for the first time. With colleges focusing their attention towards money jackpot deals and promoting their latest football gear, women are still hiding in their shame, deciding to never follow through with reporting their abuse. Alcohol use continues to skyrocket with campuses loosening their policies and rules concerning its consumption. Peer pressure is still considered an issue in the social development of people entering college, and no one seems too rushed to push towards social acceptance. Sexual assault cases are on the track to being pushed under the rug and ignored. Campuses continue to struggle to find the time to figure out a solution to this rapid issue, however, in the meantime women might just need that one push of confidence and bravery to rise as a hero, instead of a foul human.
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