The Elephant in College
Updated: Mar 13, 2019
By: Casey McCarthy
PTS Falconer Staff
December 11, 2018
As a senior in high school looking towards a future in college, I have envisioned an ideal college experience since elementary school. College has been the biggest goal I’ve ever strived to attain; it has occupied my thoughts and steered my decisions for eight years. The excited exhilaration of opening my mailbox to early acceptances has halted since my Women’s Studies class has unearthed horrifying college secrets. How would any potential student know the risk of being sexually assaulted, if colleges are continually welcoming offenders back on campus with open arms, and protecting the truth from becoming publicized? I’ve visited 25 colleges over the course of three years, in Florida and all over the east coast. Every single one of the colleges discuss their “blue light safety system,” which consists of a metal pole, a blue light on top, and a button to push for assistance in any emergency situation, and from each blue light you can see another one nearby. Each college counts a total of three or less occasions which their button has been pressed for “a biking injury” or “a ride to a dorm late at night.” Not one of the 25 colleges mentioned anything about sexual assault, knowing very well that statistics state, “every one in five women in college will experience some form of sexual assault.”
“Among graduate and professional students, 8.8% of females and 2.2% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation,” and this is only from what has been reported as, “More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.” Since colleges are afraid of acquiring bad reputations for a lack of safety, they- all colleges- under report sexual assault on or near campus. Not only do they lie to the public, but they also fail to reprimand sexual offenders. Colleges allow repeat offenders to graduate, especially if they’re athletes. “In studies of male college students in the US, one third admitted that they would commit violent rape if they knew that they could get away with it,” and “Fewer than one third of campus sexual assault cases result in expulsion.” So they really are getting away with it and the saddest part is that if all colleges reported the statistics correctly and properly handled these cases by reprimanding the offenders harsher, then the rates would most likely decline and the campuses really could be as safe as they claim to be today.
The smallest details lead to the bigger actions and huge consequences. Harassment (unwanted words, sounds, and/or gestures of a sexual nature) can lead to sexual battery (unwanted feeling over clothes), assault (unwanted touching inside of clothing), and even rape (unwanted penetration- doesn’t matter where or if it is complete). Laura Bates did a TED Talk called Everyday Sexism which discusses an average day as a woman in New York City while men continue to harass women with their suggestive comments. Many people may classify these comments as “compliments,” but these so called “compliments” are purely on a sexual level. Even Laura admits that she didn’t think anything of these remarks until she had three incidents back to back in one day, which sparked her epiphany that society has normalized this crude behavior. The process of normalizing harassment can lead to more aggressive behavior like The Abuse Cycle which John Malloy described in an article of that name, and in the worst case scenario it can lead to more serious gender violence like child marriage, rape, sexual assault, and honor killings. Furthermore, besides this atrocious cycle of normalized aggression, society instructs girls on how to avoid rape, instead of teaching boys not to rape. Since women are taught to avoid rape, their actions are closely scrutinized and sometimes they are blamed for their actions, behaviors, and apparel, which only furthers their internal anguish.
The language doesn’t only include inappropriate compliments, but it also includes the concept of “scoring girls” by gaining sexual advances with girls. Boys are being taught by social pressure to measure their worth at a young age by their sexual conquests, as Tony Porter describes in his TED Talk, A Call To Men. Examples of these typical- said or unsaid- expectations/standards for boys include: “don’t openly express emotions (with the exception of anger),” “do not show weakness or fear,” “demonstrate power and control (especially over women),” “do not be ‘like a woman,’” the idea men must be heterosexual, the concept that men are dominant but also are the “protector,” the ideal that men must be strong and athletic, and finally the sexist belief that women are property and but mere objects for the pleasure of men. The language begins at the announcement of the sex of the baby, in the form of categorizing infants into social expectations and standards. Immediately we dress baby girls in pink, and boys in blue.
People working in college administrations aren’t the only ones that need to be taking action; we should all be doing our part to ensure healthier relationships, and safer environments. Forms of preventing rape and sexual assault include: defying stereotypes of female passivity and dependence, fighting back via self-defense classes, pepper spray, and/or Rapex, education on the legal and moral importance of mutual consent in sexual relations, calling on men to become allies to women by respecting their right to say no and to participate in the objectification or stereotyping of women, supporting men in expressing their emotions, and breaking down rigid categories of gender. What would college look like if more people were aware and colleges were actively and aggressively seeking justice for survivors of rape instead of actively and aggressively fighting to suppress the truth? Steps toward this future begin with the knowledge of the issue, gained in this class and by reading.
This article is part of a Women's Studies series: Article 1- The Abuse Cycle by John Cyril Malloy IV Article 2- Invisible War: Rape Culture in the Armed Forces by John Cyril Malloy IV Article 3- This one Article 4- Ms. Massa's Women's Studies Class Should Be Required. Here's Why by Casey McCarthy