Sexual Assault Awareness Month on College Campuses

The flowers are blooming and the sun is shining again at the wake of the month of April, and additionally, it marks the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Most of us are well aware of how pervasive sexual assault is in the United States, especially on college campuses.

In fact, the statistics are incredibly alarming. The Department of Justice found that one out of every four college students will become a victim of rape or attempted sexual assault.

Additionally, 88 percent of women who are sexually assaulted on campus will not report it, and only three percent of rapists will see a courtroom.

Though the statistics may be gruesome, it is important to be aware of the issue of sexual assault, even beyond the month of April. When 25 percent of college students will become a victim of sexual assault, it makes the issue a lot more personal, because it can likely be you or someone you know. To put that into perspective, think of a classroom of 60 people with 40 of them being female. That means that out of those 40, 10 of them will be sexually assaulted while in college.

College is supposed to be a safe environment that helps young adults transition into the working world, but too often are students finding themselves in danger all across the country. To help lessen sexual assault on college campuses, it is crucial to be aware of the stereotypes and misconceptions harming people on a daily basis.

For example, many people believe that men are not capable of being sexually assaulted. When the reality is, one in 16 college men have experienced sexual assault. The pressure to maintain “masculinity” is what keeps many men from coming forward, in fear of being perceived as weak or vulnerable. The reality is however, that their experiences are just as valid, and that it is critical to be aware of how toxic masculinity harms men.

Furthermore, it is also important to be aware of what women go through on a daily basis. Victim-blaming often comes into play when a woman is sexually assaulted, as they are usually questioned about what they were wearing or what they were drinking. Not only does it make the experience all the more traumatic for the victim, but it also undermines what women are taught their entire lives.

Women are always told not to be walking by themselves at night, and to always carry a weapon in case something happens. Women are not able to run with earphones in, just in case someone tries to catch them off guard, and they are naturally anxious if they are in a place alone with a man they don’t know. All of this, and yet sexual assault is still a huge problem throughout the United States. We are living in constant fear and taking the extra measures, yet it still might happen to us anyway. The sad truth is that even if we go the extra mile to protect ourselves, we can still be assaulted, or it can happen to someone else.

In order to combat sexual assault not only on college campuses, but everywhere, it has to be destigmatized. Women have to be told that it is okay to come forward, and they should not have to worry about being blamed for what happened to them. Men should not have to feel like any assault they face is invalid, and they should not have to be held to these harmful standards of masculinity. Aggressors should be held accountable, and it should not matter if he or she had “such a bright future,” or that he or she was a great college athlete.

Furthermore, people should be aware of what exactly constitutes sexual assault, which the Department of Justice defines as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”

In addition to that, people should know that consent is what Planned Parenthood defines as FRIES: Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, and Specific. In that nature, Sexual Assault Awareness Month can make progress in creating a more safe environment for college students across the country.

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Natalia Gevara

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