It's On Us: Fight to Stop Sexual Assault
Across America a war cry is being raised. No means no! Yes means yes! It’s on us!
With recent sex scandals and assault alerts rampant in just the first two months of school, it seems that sexual assault is just a fact of life—that we will always have it. Do not let this lie seep into your beliefs. Do not become complacent with the status quo. Dare to challenge this.
Sexual assault is defined as any activity that involves penetrations, groping, or touching of intimate regions, unwanted or forced sex, rape, attempted rape, preventing protection from STIs and pregnancy, and nonconsensual sex either because of intoxication, state of mind, ability to make rational judgments, or use of force or threats. This is illegal in every state, though lawmakers are trying to get uniform definitions and punishments in place.
Similar to sexual assault is sexual harassment. It is defined as any unwelcome or unsolicited sexual advances, verbal sexual harassment, or requests for sexual favors.
While illegal in every state, sexual assault and harassment remain rampant. It is estimated that every two minutes, a sexual assault occurs in America with an estimated 237,868 cases reported each year, but that is judged to be only 60% of the total number of assaults. The rest go unreported.
Now you may say, “Alright rape is bad. I get it. What’s the big deal? It’s not like this isn’t taken care of.” Wrong. Up to 97% of rapists never see the inside of a jail cell. This is a flagrant, growing problem that finally has the nation’s attention, and even the White House’s, with the recent “It’s On Us” campaign against sexual assault.
Well, who are these horrible people who’d commit these crimes? Usually, it’s someone you know, possibly well. The concept of a dark alley and a random guy in a dark hoodie with a knife is not only outdated, it’s almost always wrong. Sexual assault is an intimate crime, meaning the perpetrator is likely to have an intimate connection of some sort with the victim. This is not always true, however, as some may know.
Recently, YouTube star Sam Pepper posted a video titled “Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank,” showing Pepper asking for directions and then groping women. YouTube commenters exploded with dissent and outrage. Later, he posted a second prank video of a woman doing the same thing to men. In a third and final video, Pepper explained that the series was a social experiment to gain attention for sexual assault. However, the feminist YouTube community disagreed, citing multiple similar, less intrusive but equally offensive videos in which Pepper had perpetrated other acts against women. YouTuber Laci Green called into question the validity of consent forms allegedly signed by participants in the videos after interviewing some of them. This incident is not isolated. Green also cited numerous other YouTubers who have been now put on an unofficial blacklist by the community.
On campus, the situation appears to be less drastic. Sexual assault has been reported at approximately equal low rates for three consecutive years (2011-2013) at Ohio State, but this may only be a portion of the actual occurrences on or near campus. In Columbus, the rate has not deviated significantly for twelve years.
Sounds great, right? At least it’s not going up? Wrong. Recent analysis of crime reports on campus shows that these reports are very, very wrong. Many cases go unreported due to victim self-blaming, outside shaming or threats, or because these occur off-campus and thus are out of the campus police’s jurisdiction. While the campus police have begun making alerts for off-campus assaults, allegations have been leveled at universities across the nation for not responding to sexual assaults. As recently as May 2014, Ohio State, along with 69 other colleges and universities, were under investigation for violations of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, which deals with sexual violence.
As an attempt to make up for lost time, new, faster procedures are in place in some schools to punish perpetrators, inform students of what constitutes consent, and advocate for bystander intervention. Ohio State even put a video about bystander intervention into all freshman and transfer orientations as well as a short talk on what constituted consent.
However, some suspects in sexual assault cases claim to have had their rights violated by police and prosecutors or that they have been falsely accused, but no one is willing to listen. At Harvard, twenty-eight law professors have filed an open letter of complaint against the reforms instituted by the university. Ultimately, colleges are less concerned about actually lowering rates and more concerned with public image, especially with Title IX inspectors breathing down their necks.
Despite these countermeasures, sexual assault continues to plague the nation. Ask anyone you know about assault and they’ve probably heard of someone, know someone, have stopped or witnessed an assault, or been assaulted themselves. An unnamed source related a story of possible sexual assault at a party that he was hosting. A female guest had been partying and drinking, and eventually went missing. Some reported that she had left the party with an unidentified man in an intoxicated state. Unfortunately, no contact could be made with the woman because she did not have her phone.
So what’s the takeaway from this?
Ultimately, that America is in a dismal state and its campuses reflect it. The rates are mirrored in demographics in and out of school. Schools are not putting enough time, resources, or money behind preventing sexual assault. The solution lies with students. Universities have been epicenters of cultural revolutions and social reforms in the past. Now is the time for students to begin these reforms. The title for the Executive Office’s campaign against sexual violence sums it up well: “It’s On Us.”
Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
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