Sexual Assault Survivors
Sexual assault on college campuses is and has been on the rise for quite some time now. For decades, it has even been said to be the most common crime found within the discussion of college campuses today. As many people may have seen, recently the hashtag “MeToo” has ignited a movement, allowing sexual assault survivors to share their stories and to spread awareness about the issue, almost entirely across all social media platforms.
Thousands of sexual assault survivors spanning around the nation have finally been stepping forward and reporting their encounters to their families, friends, and to the police and authorities; however, still only a portion of assaults are brought forward, allowing many of the offenders to continue to roam free. Unfortunately, very few sexual assault cases are investigated properly, and even less end with the conviction of the perpetrator. Today, it is not uncommon for an individual to either know of someone or be personally affected by sexual assault. And, it is because of the varying levels and types of inequality attached to sexual assault, that it is such a popular social issue in our world today.
How it works
On a Friday back in September of 2017, I had traveled down to visit my friend in Los Angeles. After a fun dinner spent catching up with one another, we planned to stay in her dorm and relax–maybe even catch up on some Netflix– while her roommate planned to go out to a party. At the last minute, my friend and I decided to tag along, and little did I know that changing our minds would be a decision that would change my life forever. It was made out to be a harmless college party; unfortunately, I have doubts now that they’re ever just harmless parties.
That night, I met a boy a year older than me and we instantly hit it off. He was welcoming and kind; he complemented my outfit and even offered to show us around the house. As the night progressed, he seemed to take a particular interest in me and, to be truthful, I liked the attention I was getting. I had just broken up with my high school boyfriend of two years and this guy was easy to talk to.
We discussed random things, ranging from our favorite sports teams, tv shows, and places to travel. At one point I noticed that I’d been so entranced in our conversation, that we somehow ended up away from the main crowd of people at the party. My friend and her roommate were nowhere nearby. Instantly, this boy’s nice guy persona completely disappeard, and his body weight was pinning me down.
I wanted no part of what was happening and my repeated use of “No” did not even seem to phase him. That night I was sexually assaulted, and the way I look at men has forever been changed. My story is just one example of the many sexual assault cases that have occured on college campuses in America. I think that part of the fear within many of us survivors is that we won’t be taken seriously, and the stigma surrounding sexual assault forces many of us into a silence; that being said, sexual assault on college campuses is a serious social problem, and one that needs to be given more attention and taken much more seriously.
While almost all incidents of sexual assault are acts from men, women are frequently blamed for what happened. We are held highly responsible for the way we act, dress, and even react, while men often face little to no reprimanding for their actions. From a feminist perspective, nowhere is the evaluation of women based on their appearance more harmful than when applied in sexual assault situations.
In some instances, men accused of sexual assault try to use a woman’s appearance or their attractiveness as their defense. They may label a woman as a slut, tramp, even a floozy– one whose good looks and provocative attire lured them to act as they did. Regardless of whether myself or the many many other individuals out who have experienced a similar situation, were wearing a skirt, shorts, or jeans, we did not provoke sexual assault by our appearance.
Another one of the most outstanding issues within sexual assault is that victims don’t always share their incidents with the police or someone of authority. There are countless numbers of reasons as to why an individual may not want to share their story or disclose what happened to them; for example, one reason an individual may not want to share their story is because they may not even know if what happened to them constitutes as assault.
Before this happened, I never really thought about sexual assault and, when I did, I thought that it had meant rape. Unfortunately, there are so many different definitions and opinions about what constitutes as assault out there, that not enough people can agreen upon a sole definition. For some individuals, sexual assault is constituted as being rape specifically. For many others, sexual assault can be a result of varying acts.
When I finally talked to my friends, my family, counselors, and to the authorities, I was explained to that sexual assault doesn’t solely occur by rape, there are many ways one can be affected. Now, my personal definition of sexual assault is any sexual act that is nonconsensual. That being said, if I don’t consent to doing something with another person, and they do it anyway, it is assault. Regardless of whether or not there was flirting, drinking, smoking– or even if a “yes” was said beforehand– it is still assault.
Furthermore, another large problem affiliated with why sexual assault is such a large social issue is because of inconsistencies within our justice system. First of all, there is no mandatory minimum sentence for rape or sexual assault from the government. Unfortunately, even when states are able to pass such laws, there are still plenty of individuals who seem to be more concerned with the perpetrator’s well being than what justice for such an atrocious crime might actually mean or entail.
For example, in the case of Brock Turner, the student from Stanford who was caught sexually assaulting a woman who was unconscious, there was pretty clear indication he knew the wrongness of what he was doing. He even ran away from the people who saw him! At the end of the trial, the judge gave him an extraordinarily lenient 6 month jail sentence, and upon good behavior he was released in half that time. The rationale behind such a light sentence was because the judge felt any time longer would have “a severe impact on him”.
No such sympathy was given to football player Cory Batey from Vanderbilt who also raped an unconscious woman. However, Batey was African American, and because of it immediately put into custody and is set to serve a mandatory minimum of 15 to 25 years in prison. The racial dispairity in sentencing for similar crimes is very inconsistent. In my case, the situation ended pretty fast.
The boy got in trouble at the college, a Title IX was filed and he was delettered and kicked out of his fraternity. After that, the situation just seemed to dissipate. The racial dispairity in sentencing for similar crimes is very inconsistent. Regardless if it was my situation, Cory Batey’s, or Brock Turner’s, there is proof that racial inequality and white priviledge is still very much in tact, especially when it comes to legal and justice system.
Unfortunately, sexual assault is a large social issue that will most likely continue to impact the lives of many more college students. Today, we live in a world that still has tremendous amounts of inequality throughout it. I mean– it is basically embedded into our Declaration of Independence and Constitution when it says “All men are created equal,” with no reference to women.
Despite the strides we have made in the last several decades towards gaining equality such as the right to vote and access to birth control, sexism and gender inequality are still very prevalent issues. As a result of such deeply rooted inequality, sexual assault cases will be treated as such. It’s hard to know who to trust or what is right and wrong in cases, when individuals and even our justice system cannot give a consistent answer or solution.