By Francesca Gugino
Sexual assault on college campuses is a problem that haunts our society and cripples bright minds- making young women and men powerless and strpping them of their body autonomy. For the past decade or so, colleges have been adopted policies to curb this issue and to enlighten students about how to intervene when seeing a situation in which one person seems unable to consent or unwilling to consent but sexual advances are still made.
As a freshman, I attended Niagara University, where I underwent not one, not two, but three separate mandatory meetings regarding rights via Title IX, Yes Means Yes, and where one can turn after being assaulted. Here as a transfer at Canisius College, I am required to attend another sexual assault course seminar, and I am glad that these are mandatory because awareness is extremely important.
Our greatest social flaw is being uncomfortable with discussing rape and sexual assault. It happens. Statistically one in five undergraduate students will experience a form of sexual assault on campus, but only 20-percent of undergraduate women will report the assault to law enforcement. For everyone one woman who is robbed on campus, two are sexually assaulted (RAINN official website). There is no denying the problem on college campuses.
So in this rape culture, why is Betsy DeVos, United States Secretary of Education, trying to change Title IX sexual assault policies to favor the accused?
Is her goal to shut up the already shunned men and women who are struggling to come to terms with what happened to them?
DeVos has spent her time meeting with groups that advocate for rights for men who are accused of sexually assaulting and raping women, as she proposes to reform Title IX.
This poses a problem for women who have experienced sexual assault, but many are hoping for an uproar and a retaliation in response to Candice E. Jackson’s comment: “Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right’”( New York Times). Jackson is supposed to be serving as civil rights advocate for the Department of Education, and yet she argues that victims are fabricating their assaults?
Is the Trump administration going to continue the stigmas of the rape culture that we are so desperately trying to escape?
In the past few weeks, I have heard comments about sexual assault and the reactions people have when finding out someone close to them is a victim. The one which stood out to me most was when I heard a fellow student say that he wouldn’t date someone if he found out that she was sexually assaulted or raped. Some of you may argue that this was based on the idea of a fear of partner’s mental instability; however, his argument was based solely on the loss of virtue and the fact that this victim is now damaged.
Personally, I was infuriated and uncomfortable by this statement, as I am aware of how difficult it is for women, and men, to move on after being taken advantage of.
Numb. Confused. Hurt. Ashamed.
But more often, SILENT.
There is an overwhelming fear which overcomes a victim, and our culture has been known to foster the inaction and allow our universities to be guilty of covering up the traumas.
DeVos has stated that she wants to rewrite what the Obama administration accomplished through Title IX, as she believes that the men accused have too much at stake to lose and that many are not given the opportunity of innocence (CNN). But her steps, in my opinion, will push down the already oppressed victims.
So I urge you to stay aware AND informed, advocate for the rights of the victim, and help stop our society from returning to archaic views of rape. It is never the victim’s fault, and this is something that took me so long to understand for myself.
Do not put your head down. Be radiant and stand up for those who are afraid to come forward. Be a spark for change, and do not allow Title IX rights to dwindle away.