Education necessary to prevent sexual violence

Issue: Sexual assault is more prevalent than most people woud like to admit


The world is full of issues that make us uncomfortable — things that we’d rather never have to talk about. One of those issues is sexual assault. Sex alone is hard enough for our society to talk about openly and honestly. Add into that mix a component of violence or coercion and society’s tendency to blame a victim for being a victim and you end up with a topic that people will find any excuse to ignore.

Therein lies the problem, especially for women in college. Most women, much less college students, would not be able to tell you that the overwhelming majority of rapes occur in a residence. And many more don’t know that as many as 9 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, often fairly well. It may also be surprising to many that physical violence is actually pretty rare in these situations.

The reason people don’t know about these things is because we as a society have, by and large, refused to talk about it. We don’t want to admit that we have failed, that we have allowed millions of women to be attacked in the most violating way possible and done next to nothing about it. Countless studies by both government and non-government agencies have documented this fact over the last 20 or 30 years and yet very little has changed, at least on college campuses.

Victims still say they blame themselves when they’re attacked. Victims are still not reporting their attacks because they are afraid of what their friends will say. Bystanders who could have stopped one friend from raping another friend still stand by and do nothing.

The numbers speak for themselves. As many as 1 in 4 college-aged women will be the victim of a sexual assault in her lifetime, as many as 35 sexual assaults are committed for every 1,000 women on a college campus and only 5 percent of those assaults will ever be reported. Those numbers can’t be ignored.

And yet so far colleges and universities have struggled with how to deal with sexual assaults. What programs do exist often focus on the responsibility of a victim and not the perpetrator. Those programs often have another drawback, as they do here at SDSU: they are voluntary. A recent survey by the American College Health Association found only about 37 percent of college students wanted to know about sexual assault prevention. Clearly voluntary education isn’t going to work for sexual assault.

SDSU needs to do more to educate its students about sexual assault, and that education should probably be mandatory. We tend to focus a lot of attention on alcohol consumption, and rightly so — most sexual assaults on college campuses do involve alcohol. However, the focus must be broadened.

Victims must know that it is not their fault somebody raped them.  The university must clearly state and publish its stance on sexual assault and its policy for dealing with sexual assault when it happens. Every student should know what the university will do if a sexual assault occurs.

Finally, now is the time to start the conversation about sexual assault. We must have this conversation. It must be frank and it must be honest.


Stance: SDSU should make sexual assault education a priority for incoming freshmen and publish clear definitions of sexual assault and well-defined punishments for those who commit these crimes on campus.