Opinion: Students are being raped, and universities are not doing enough
This is an open letter to every single college, university and institution of higher education in America.
I write to you on behalf of your respective student bodies and college students across the country.
As of this date, at some level, your campus has a problem with sexual assault. Despite the great likelihood that your administrators know of this, and despite the chance that there have been steps taken to stop the problem, it does not change the fact that there will absolutely be students under your watch who will be raped, groped, fondled and molested in the years to come.
It is a pervasive problem. The Federal Department of Education has reported a decrease in campus crime overall, but numbers specifically linked with sexual assault have risen by 50 percent over the past decade. It is abhorrent that we have let it go on this long; it is nothing less than repugnant. Young women and men everywhere who fell victim to sexual assault will spend the rest of their lives coping with their abuse because of the ignorance and lack of discipline in a handful of universities.
I believe the problem is largely cultural, and is a byproduct of man’s innate sinful nature, though that does not shield the fact that there were many times when U.S. university administrators failed to uphold their duty to create a safe learning environment for their students for the sake of better athletics and good public relations.
There are fundamental problems about the way we talk and think about the issue, too, that perpetuate the culture of sexual assault and keep the problem around indefinitely. To solve these fundamental hurdles, they must be acknowledged and discussed; here’s my take:
- The very name—sexual assault—is misleading and counterproductive in trying to raise awareness about the problem itself. Though “sexual assault” can correctly be used as an umbrella term to cover many types of abuse, it is oftentimes used as a euphemism. Students, scholars and pundits alike will use the term sexual assault because they are hesitant to say what actually happened—rape. The word itself has become a social taboo. To bring greater awareness about the problem, it is essential to call the problem what it actually is. Discussions about rape should not be comfortable; they should not be easy, so we need to stop acting like they are.
- I believe universities themselves must take better steps to get the most accurate picture of how many different acts of sexual assault actually take place on their campus yearly. It is common knowledge that the magnitude of campus sexual assault is widely unknown: many cases go unreported and a handful of colleges attempt to hide cases of campus sexual assault to the public to bolster a false image of security for the sake of financial profit. Though there have been many organizations that have tried to gather statistics to get a better picture of how prevalent campus sexual assault is nationwide, there is still a lot we do not know. Continually prioritizing victim confidentiality and a well-maintained campus Title IX office is a step in convincing more victims of assault to come forward with what happened, which can in turn produce more accurate statistics and spread a greater awareness about the problem.
- Once, when talking to a colleague about a recent publicized case of a campus rape, he said his first reaction was to wonder “whether the girl is lying.” Yes, of course there are fake accusations of sexual assault that are made. To think that is the norm, though, and to assume that the number of fake accusations in any way comes close to the number of actual rapes that take place every year is beyond foolish and detrimental to solving the problem. This kind of mindset creates a campus culture that discourages victims to speak up, to stand up, to seek justice.
Being a student at Liberty University for three years now, I have talked to and interacted with people who have directly or indirectly been sexually assaulted. This problem extends well beyond Liberty’s campus—it is a problem of the heart that has infested university campuses. Being a Christian, I know that a relationship with God is the most effective solution to this sinful world.
And being the writer of this column, I pray today that our society progresses to the point where I no longer feel compelled to write about this topic ever again.