On page 1, I wrote a news piece specifically about how Trinity deals with sexual assaults titled “Multiple challenges and solution for college assault.” Now, after multiple interviews with faculty, administration students and the district attorney, this is how I view the issue of sexual assault on campus.
The “Dear Colleague” letter was issued by the Department of Education in 2011, serving as a guide for colleges’ treatment of sexual assault reports. This all started with the Title IX legislation, put in place in 1972, enforcing equal treatment of women and men in a college setting because, along with general inequality, women were being sexually victimized by their peers and, in some cases, by administration. Effectively, Title IX didn’t do much more than increase the number of women’s sport programs. We get it, government. You tried. Thanks a bunch for that, maybe that extra lung capacity I get from swimming will help me blow my rape whistle. We wanted justice, so the government changed, but the problem is that we don’t impose our own.
So what is rape? Really, after talking to all of these people for my news piece, I had less faith in society for not addressing all the gray areas in this very complex question. It’s really easy to make a line in the sand and say, “Do not cross,” but in real life, the lines are not so clear. I get it, and I think a lot of us do, that no means no, but what if “no” isn’t said? What if it’s the opposite?
From a female standpoint, while still acknowledging that sexual assault can occur to anyone and by anyone regardless of gender, it is very common for girls to get dressed up, put on a nice small outfit and enjoy receiving attention from guys at parties. This is real, but if you are enjoying that attention so much and you have control over that situation, it can change with the flick of a light switch.
What if you are a girl and you did get drunk and you didn’t say anything? What if the drunk you wanted to hook up and encouraged it? Did you expect the other party, assumingly also intoxicated, to say “no” for you even though he wanted it too? If you didn’t say “˜no,’ how would he know you didn’t want to have sex? If you said “˜yes’, why would he stop? These are real phenomena, and state law says that if you are intoxicated and someone has sex with you, it is potentially rape because your consent is trumped by alcohol-induced incompetence. This leaves a lot of room for perception, interpretation and confusion when investigating these cases, leading to few legally pursued cases and even fewer convictions.
In college, societal norms are a largely dictating force, and unfortunately, these norms do very little to prevent any of the instances above, leaving us as the main catalysts for change. Kind of a heavy load, right?
Can you honestly say that if you were to go with your girl or guy friend to a party, you would ask beforehand, “Hey, are you down for some sex tonight or would you like me to step in if you start resembling a walking peep show?” I mean, I’d like to think I would, but my filter is a little wider than most. Generally, I don’t think a lot of us are okay with talking about it because it’s perceived “˜okay’ to have a one-night stand if it’s an accident, even though I’d venture to say that people know before that first sip of frothy, keg-tapped Keystone whether or not they’d be comfortable hooking up. If it were my vote, I’d say have this conversation before the liquid courage gets you or your best friend naked, so we all know where we stand, but instead we remain behind that pulpit, furrowing our judgmental brows and secretly sexting underneath our gown whilst sipping vodka from a reused water bottle.
The majority of survivors – an estimated 75 percent – don’t pursue their rape legally or even report it because it’s “embarrassing” or “shameful,” when really, we as a society inflict these harms upon these victims who have already survived an awful experience. It is gut-wrenching to sit in multiple people’s offices, people that care about this community and those in it, and hear that same response – that these survivors are embarrassed. Rather than aiding in the realistic acceptance of sex, sexuality, consent and the like, we hide these meanings away and instead replace them with prideful accusations.
We should all be pushing the envelope and creating real standards as a society. It should not be acceptable to shame someone who has already encountered such a intimate violation of their rights. It should not be acceptable for us to only whisper about what our friends do when they are drunk. It should not be acceptable for OUR friends to witness, standby or even engage in such an act. We should not be embarrassed to talk about sex and what really happens in the back rooms at parties, what really happens when that couple leaves early and what really happens when some of us come back alone.
Drinking happens, sex happens, accidents happen and life is messy, but when the line between consent and malicious force is crossed, there should be no stigma. We all have those preconceived notions about what is right and wrong and what we can’t talk about, but life isn’t always easy and the best decisions you will ever make are the hard ones. Be a good friend, even if it means having one or two of your friends mad at you for the night. We shouldn’t be afraid to protect each other, and this transcends just instances of sexual assault.
Somewhere between hunting and gathering in groups and now, we have lost the idea that we are responsible for those around us and that we should inherently care whether or not someone gets hurt. I realize this is a huge demand, but emulating the “everyone for themselves” idea that now dictates most of our competitive, consumer-driven lives will not only hurt us, but it could end us.
Faith Ozer is a sophomore majoring in political science.