Sexual assault is defined as a type of sexual violence that occurs without the consent of the victim (Basile). It includes attempted rape, sexual touching and any sexual act that is no consented by the victim. A survey managed by OVW and the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that one in five undergraduate females experience sexual assault by the time they finish college (Black et al.). College women are at greater risk for sexual assault than women in the general (Fisher et al.
Sexual assault on campus is common and often goes unreported. These statistics strongly highlight the scope in frequency in which these incidents occur and that women are found to be the main victims. Universities have attempted to provide many resources to stop the problem such as developing hotlines, education and awareness. However, rates of sexual assault have not declined over the last five decades (Armstrong et al.). High rates of sexual assault on college campuses are due to gender inequality, male privilege and rape culture.
Despite several incidents and concerning statistics, sexual violence is often normalized. Denying or normalizing sexual assault is a result of rape culture. Sky Jordan, a writer for The State Press, defines rape culture as a culture in which rape rampant but excused by the people and media within that culture (Jordan).
Clear examples of the effects of rape culture can be found in social media, music or in stubble everyday actions. College students in particular are constantly exposed to platforms in which this culture is evident.
The romanticism of rape in the media results in objectification of the women body and victim blaming. Victim blaming is characterized by shifting the blame from the abuser to the victim. Dr. Mary Simmering, a professor in research integrity in medicine who has worked with many sexual violence survivors, that the questions “What were you wearing?” is pervasive for most sexual assault survivors (cite). In 2009, there was a sexual assault case in Manitoba, Canada where the judge pointed out the victim’s choice of wearing “a tube top with no bra, high heels and plenty of makeup” and said, “‘They made their intentions publicly know that they wanted to party” (Celander). This case is the perfect example of how authorities often blame the victim and are guilty of the “boys will be boys” mentality.
Survivors are often faces with questions regarding what they were wearing, how much they had to drink and why were they in room full of men. Rape culture is harmful because not only promotes the normalization of sexual assault but also victim blaming. Sexual assault on college often goes unreported. More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault (Fisher et al.). Timothy C. Marchell, a clinical psychologist and director of Cornell University’s Skorton Center for Health Initiatives, states that victims may also not want to report due to the fear of reliving the trauma by having to talk about it publically (cite). In a 2007 study, researchers found that students did not report due to the following reasons: lack of proof that incident occurred, fear of retaliation by the penetrator, fear of hostile treatment of authorities and fear that the authorities would not consider incident serious enough (cite).
More needs to be done by college and universities to guarantee that victims will feel safe and free of victim blaming when reporting sexual assault. More needs to be done in order to eliminate ideas proposed by rape culture such as the objectification of women. Sexual assault promotes several short and long-term effects on the victim’s mental health. Many survivors report flashbacks of their assault, and feelings of shame, isolation, shock, confusion, and guilt (Mason & Lodrick). A study was conducted to analyze the mental health of women five months after being attacked, 80% of these women developed at least one mental disorder (Campbell). Women who are victims of sexual assault are very likely to develop mental illness, and in some cases even commit suicide. For example, At the University of Missouri, a swimmer, allegedly raped by one or more football players, committed suicide 16 months later (Dodd). Furthermore, at the University of Notre Dame , a 19-year-old freshman at a neighboring college committed suicide after being sexually assaulted by Notre Dame football player (North).
The mental health impacts of sexual assault victims are of great concern, and more needs to be done in order to guarantee victims receive all mental support needed after reporting. Sex is often celebrated on college campuses and within the fraternity system. Research indicates that sexual victimization occurs at increased rates during fraternity parties and after fraternity- sponsored functions in fraternity houses (Murnen et al.). Compared to men who are not in fraternities, men who are in fraternities are also more likely to engage in sexually aggressive behaviors and to have rape-supportive beliefs and attitudes (Murnen & Kohlman). These finding show the strong correlation between fraternity culture and sexual assault, and that there is a high risk of the occurrence of sexual assault at fraternity events. This is because the fraternity systems promote partying, sexual competition among pledges and an inherent sense of privilege.
“Women are invited to the homes of these male organizations where the entire party, down to the distribution of beer, is controlled by men (Anderson).” These men have a sense of entitlement that promotes aggressive behavior. Fraternity males usually celebrate hyper masculinity which leads to aggressive behavior that is often translated into violence against female guests. Male privilege is another leading cause for the increasing rate of sexual assault on campus. The most explicit form of the role that male dominance and privilege plays on college sexual assault instances is the Brock Turner case. Brock Turner, a former Stanford University student, attended a Kappa Alpha fraternity party where he met the victim.
They left the party together, and she then passes out by a dumpster where Turner assaults her early the next morning. He is tackled by two graduate students and arrested. He was convicted of three felony charges of assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object (“Stanford Survivor Letter”). However, Turner was sentenced to only six months in jail opposing the prosecutor’s recommendation of six years. The judge stated that he feared a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner, a champion swimmer who once aspired to compete in the Olympics — a point repeatedly brought up during the trial (Baker). When sentencing Brock Turner to only six months in jail, the judge completely failed to put in consideration the impact of this incident on the victim’s life. His main concerned seemed to be the impact of the sentence on Turner’s life, a white wealthy male, rather than justice.
Furthermore, news articles reporting the incident often referred to Brock Turner as “former Stanford swimmer” and would even sometimes list his swimming times rather than bringing light to his actions. This case highlights a bigger issue when it comes to sexual assault; that the increasing rates of sexual assault on campus does not rely solely on “drunken mistakes,” but it is rather embedded on a deeper issue: male privilege. 97% of rapists spend even less time in jail than Brock Turner (Madkins). This points out how sexual assault is often normalized, not taken seriously and perpetrators commonly get away with if they come from a privileged background. Male privilege often gives men a sense of entitlement and in cased like sexual assault, it often shifts the blame into the victim. It is also common for sexual assault incidents to be accompanied by victim blaming or being excused as a “drunken mistake. For examples, during the Brock Turner trial, while the judge was concerned the impact that a long sentence would have on Turner, the victim was at the trial answering questions such as: “How much did you drink? How many times did you black out? Did you party at frats?”
These questions show that alcohol is often used as scapegoat to shift the blame from the perpetrator. Although there is a connection between sexual assault and alcohol, one does cause the other. Antonio Abbey, a researcher at the Department of Community Medicine, Wayne State University, stated that although woman’s alcohol consumption may place her at increased risk of sexual assault, she is in no way responsible for the assault (Abbey et al.). If a victim does not consent, no sexual action should take place regardless of what she was wearing or how much she had to drink. The truth is that men are likely to commit sexual assault will do so drunk or sober, alcohol just makes it easier for them to overpower drunk victims. Alcohol consumption may increase the likelihood of sexual assault but it does not justify or cause it.
Sexual assault is extremely common on college campuses and often goes unreported. It is a serious issue that puts victims at risk for mental health issues. Despite attempts from Universities to provide resources to stop the problem, rates for sexual assault on campus continue to incline. This points that the reason for these inclining rates are go beyond alcohol. More should be done to spread the understanding that it is not acceptable for men to attack women without her consent under any circumstance. The alarming statistics of sexual assault on campus continue to incline due to institutionalized rape culture and male privilege. The issue does no lay simply within each individual bur rather behaviors displaces by college students and society as a whole.
‘Many students are desensitized to rape culture. It’s a normal part of conversations and social behaviors,’ Sergio Camberos, ASU wellness ambassador, said. ‘These behaviors have to be unlearned. Leaning how to facilitate healthy relationships, how to be respected, and be respectful are all part of this process’ (Jordan). Behaviors influenced by male privilege and rape culture need to be unlearned. Transformative change needs to occur so individuals learn how to build healthy relationships, how to be respectful and the meaning of consent.