Higher education will not dismantle rape culture by ignoring it

Although college started out as a system for men, a 2014 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that women have gradually outpaced men in college enrollment. Even though countless similar statistics show that more women are receiving college degrees than men are, colleges overall is still a man’s world—a world that perpetuates rape culture and systematic misogyny. Worst of all, the upper echelons of university administrators either do nothing or hide such realities from the public.

The Center for Public Integrity reported that in 2009 West Virginia University, University of Iowa, and Florida State University all either failed to disclose the actual number of filed cases of sexual harassment or assault or altogether stifled the documented cases. For example: Whereas a sexual assault prevention program documented 46 known sexual assaults at WVU, the university’s annual security report did not reflect any of those filed incidences.

Colleges continue to relinquish their responsibility to protect their students despite the legal implementation of the Clery Act. The purpose of the Clery act is to keep schools accountable by enforcing accurate documentation of sexual harassment and assault reports. However, loopholes in confidentiality policies and confusion over how organizations should report such offenses prevent schools from following through.

The Greek system in colleges is not representative of the entirety of higher education. However, the media have certainly employed the affairs of fraternities and sororities to glamorize the more lackadaisical side of academia. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, titled “A Prospective Analysis of Sexual Assault Perpetration: Risk Factors Related to Perpetrator”, purports that men in fraternities are three times more likely to rape women than average college men. The correlation between hyper-masculinity and rape culture in colleges is hypothetical at best, but the research shown in the above study is quite damning.

Gawker, a popular news outlet known for their provocative and often sensationalized content, compiled every report of sexual assault perpetrated by fraternities in the year 2014; Gawker listed more than 30 examples. Keep in mind that in a patriarchal society that routinely shames women for being sexually proud or active, most victims of rape do not seek external assistance because they feel they will be stigmatized or judged by peers.

On the note of slut shaming, American society as a whole has to deconstruct the myth of the “good victim.” A victim does not have to fit a certain image of wholesomeness to be eligible to receive professional help and compassion. A rape victim, does not have to have received a merit-based scholarship or possess a clean criminal record in order to legally prosecute the people who traumatized them. Most importantly, a rape victim does not have to be white, female or heterosexual. In fact, queer people of color are just as likely to experience sexual violence.

In Jan. 2013, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, showed that while gay and lesbian couples are just as likely to experience sexual violence, bisexual women, on the other hand, are more vulnerable to sexual violence and stalking.

America needs to start treating sexual violence against women, nay… all people, as acts of terrorism; sexual terrorism, and one cannot properly resolve this problem without including intersectionality and the plethora of narratives belonging to different minority communities. No matter how diverse the story is, however, one message is absolutely transparent, and that is: No means no.

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