Sexual Assault: A problem on college campuses

Contributing Writer

Please be aware that this article contains triggers and read with caution and an open mind.

            I can remember scrutinizing myself when I was a young girl, as early as the age of nine. I can recall looking at myself in the mirror and emulating all of my friends who relentlessly picked apart every element of their countenances to find flaws where society had told them to go searching. This is being said to call attention to the fact that young children have learned to try to conform to the unreachable standards society has set for them. Women particularly face intense pressure to be what is widely believed to be the right kind of beautiful. There is something very wrong with that. In a woman’s attempt to be to be considered attractive, she places unnecessary pressure on herself. She reaches for a goal she will never attain. She starts to consider herself from the outside before the inside. In doing so, she becomes desensitized to just how over-sexualized women are in today’s society.

Just as women feel pressure to reach society’s beauty standards, they also have become accustomed to making concessions for discrimination and objectification. Objectification of women takes place every day in depictions of women in ads and media as well as in brazen evaluations or judgment of women on an aesthetic level. This sexual objectification shifts the view of a woman from humanistic to being denied humanity and considered unworthy of strong concern. In other words, a sexually objectified woman is considered less deserving of public concern than one who is not objectified. In a British study of objectification in the realm of sexual assault, undergraduate students perceived sexually objectified women to be more responsible for being assaulted than non-objectified women. This mentality has converted itself into the notion that a woman dressing or acting in a way that could be construed as sexual is to blame if she is sexually assaulted. Combatants of this mentality have coined the phrase “rape predates miniskirts.”

As a society, we are all habitually careless with our thoughts, words and actions in regard to sensitive issues that impact our well-being. This carelessness can, and often does, transform into the destruction of morals and discretion. Thoughts often lead to action, and that is absolutely the case on every college campus in America. One in four women is sexually assaulted, and this is too grotesque to ignore. Yet, the statistic is perpetuated and has actually shifted from earlier studies that indicated a one in five women on college campuses are assaulted. If the garish number is such common knowledge, why is this horrible truth still undeniable? It would seem that it is deniable- while this is only indicative of reported incidents on college campuses, many students still possess the earlier mentioned mentality of objectification and sexuality being an excuse for sexual assault.

Colleges and Universities around the country- and indeed around the world- have implemented programs that supposedly educate students on the bare facts of sexual assault, and yet the statistic has not shifted to a lower number.

Piedmont College educates incoming freshmen students on the horrors of campus assault by using a physical demonstration tactic where four students are grouped together and informed that one of them will most likely face a sexual assault while in college. Other colleges choose to require students to take a course in the basics of campus assault that contain triggers and information that one student at a nearby college, who chooses to remain anonymous, states were “too little too late” while going on to say that she didn’t think the course was helpful, but, in fact, harmed her emotionally and mentally instead.

If this attempt to educate students on the horrors of the far reach of sexual assault across America’s college campuses is as ineffective as the perpetuated statistic would suggest, that alone should indicate that the problem is rooted much deeper in our culture and society. Sexual objectification stems from the “rape culture” that is subtly showing up in our everyday lives through advertisements, video and television media, music, hurtful and degrading language and body shaming. In regard to the aftermath of sexual assault on campus, Kriston Haynes spoke as her role as a Resident Director would have her by stating that “there is a common fear of getting someone in trouble.” She explained that “while justice should be sought, the victim needs to take care of him or herself by seeking counseling and advice of what to do next…being aware of resources can provide comfort of a specific level to the victim because at the end of the day it is ultimately about taking care of him or herself after a tragic situation.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault on a college campus or elsewhere, please seek help.

For more information, call the national center for victims of crime at 800-394-2255 or seek help from your local police office, campus police or a trusted authority.