As college women returned to campus this month, their biggest concerns should have been the cost of books or which clubs to join. Instead, they bear the burden of fearing for their own safety.
Sexual violence against women is a global concern, reaching into every part of society. College campuses are no different; a study by the U.S. Department of Justice declares that 1 in 5 women on college campuses have experienced a form of sexual assault.
This statistic certainly instills fear in college women who read it, but it has obviously not instilled enough fear in administrators on campus. Senator Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) campus sexual assault survey revealed that 41 percent of four year colleges have not conducted a sexual assault investigation in five years.
Too often, the responsibility of preventing sexual assault is placed on women. They are told not to dress “too provocatively” or drink “too much,” and, if they do, the assault is considered their own fault.
Women are taught to use tools, like the much joked about “rape whistle” or the new digital age protection, smartphone apps, as a defense mechanism against potential predators.
It is important to note that not all sexual assaults are perpetrated by a man against a woman. However, for female rape survivors, 98.1 percent of the time a man was the perpetrator.Given this statistic, stronger action must be taken to educate men about consent, equivalent to the actions more frequently taken to teach women about defense.
The apparent trend in our society is that women are constantly expected to accept accountability for sexual assault, rather than the perpetrators or the institutions that allow these crimes to continue.
There is some hope that accountability will finally begin to fall on the shoulders of those who deserve it with the introduction of a new bill in Congress.
In July, New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a bill called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), a bipartisan effort to change policy on college campuses in order to provide women with the support they need in both preventing sexual assault and providing safe resources for survivors after the fact.
As the above statistics show, many college campuses do not devote sufficient resources to sexual assault. Gillibrand’s bill aims to eliminate this negligence by requiring campus staff and encouraging students to go through comprehensive training that will teach them how to effectively intervene in situations that put students in danger and how to assist a survivor in finding safe and comfortable resources.
Survivors of sexual assault experience high rates of depression, trauma disorders, and self-harm. CASA will work to remove stigma and provide specialized support for survivors through the creation of sexual assault resource centers and the placement of designated trained staff on campuses.
An overwhelming 95 percent of sexual assaults on campus go unreported and 97 percent of perpetrators walk away without punishment. Women are discouraged to report these crimes and therefore, justice is never served. CASA proposes to give women a voice by punishing academic institutions guilty of underreporting sexual assault and increasing campus communication with law enforcement surrounding cases of sexual assault.