From a young age, every child knows to how to dial 911 or to stop, drop and roll. “Click it or ticket” signs remind drivers to buckle up, and students are taught how to prevent accidents by not texting and driving. But what is being done to prevent emergencies regarding sexual assault? How can instances of rape be reported?
Though more attention is being brought to the issue, unreported sexual assault and rape cases are still a rampant problem, especially on college campuses. The problem of under-reporting reflects a dire need for increased campus prevention, support systems and ultimately a need for open conversations between the student body and administrators. In the last year alone, the federal government has made it their prerogative to break the silence about sexual violence on college campuses and provide victims their right to reclaim the power and justice they have lost by being abused.
Trinity has participated in conversations about the sexual violence that occurs on college campuses and has sought to implement a more realistic approach. One way the university will be shining a light on the reality of sexual violence on college campuses is through a presentation by Sarah Hepola, author of the New York Times bestseller “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget.” The presentation is sponsored by Coalition for Respect and Greek Council.
Hepola is a UT graduate who worked multiple jobs for different magazines and had an article published in Texas Weekly about blackout drinking in college. She went on to write a book about her experiences with alcohol in college and ultimately highlighted the realization that college is filled with a culture of unsafe binge drinking practices that leads to incredibly dangerous and harmful effects on college students. Jeremy Allen, coordinator for fraternity and sorority life, thought that it would be helpful for Hepola to come and share her perspective on the relationship between alcohol and sexual assault.
“Two-thirds of sexual assaults on college campuses involve alcohol, and on our campus, that is about 70 percent,” Allen said. “In college, there is this culture about binge drinking to the point of blackout. We really want to open up the conversation about this culture, and we want to prevent sexual assault. I think that it is time for this conversation to happen,” Allen said.
Residential Life coordinator Stephanie Ackerman also expressed the importance of having Hepola come to Trinity and provide new insight on how sexual violence should be approached.
“We’ve had speakers talk about sexual assault but not in this type of approach. To acknowledge that alcohol is a part of the college culture brings forth this conversation that needs to happen about the reality of sexual violence,” Ackerman said.
Sarah Hepola brings a new view to dealing with sexual violence on college campuses starting with the recognition that alcohol is a huge contributing factor to sexual violence among colleges worldwide. She advocates acknowledging that college students are drinking, both legally and underage, and it is important to have conversations between the student body and the faculty and staff about prevention, support and the creation of a safe environment where victims of sexual assault and rape are able to come forward, not only to prosecute their offenders but also to seek justice and have their voices heard.
For an exclusive interview with Sarah Hepola, see “Young, Educated and Drunk: An Interview with Sarah Hepola” on page 11.