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Patrick Moyer & Jeff Seidl April 23, 2014 Group Project- Collegian Story

Over the last four weeks, there have been four reported sexual assaults on the campus of West Chester University. In two of these assaults, women were attacked by men that they knew. In the other two assaults, they were attacked by unknown assailants. The University has said that the recent string of attacks is purely coincidental, and that the police are investigating each incident. However, the assaults have still shaken many students. The sexual assaults at West Chester University underscore a grave issue that is plaguing college campuses all across the country. A 2007 study by the National Institute of Justice revealed that one in five women are sexually assaulted while attending college, and about 70% of these victims reported that that their attackers were a familiar acquaintance. These statistics show that college campus assaults aren't just minor, isolated problems. The assaults are part of a larger, systemic problem relating to incorrect perceptions about sexuality and consent. They are also perpetuated by the ambivalent attitudes of some college administrators. The driving factor behind the nation's alarming sexual assault rate is the attitudes that many people hold about consent. About 76% of high school boys, and 56% of high school girls, believe that it is ok to have "forced sex" in certain situations. Those high percentages are bad enough, but what's even worse is that these adolescents seem to think that sex can be forcible. If you are sexually forcing yourself onto another person, you are automatically committing rape. Teenagers that don't realize this will inevitably head off to college thinking that rape is sometimes acceptable. This explains why women between the ages of 16-24 are raped four times more frequently than women in any other age group.

In other instances, attackers fail to realize how encompassing rape is. They may think that rape is unacceptable, but, due to faulty notions and beliefs, they'll still engage in predatory behavior. Groping, touching, and various sex acts can all be categorized as rape if they occur without a woman's consent. However, many men believe that this is not the case. Conversely, many victims of sexual assault fail to realize that they were, in fact, attacked by a predator. About 49% of college rape victims believe that they weren't attacked when, in fact, what happened to them meets all of the definitions of rape. In order to combat the sexual assault epidemic, young people need to learn that consent is always needed when engaging in sexual activity. If consent isn't there, an attack is occurring. Additionally, consent can never truly be present when alcohol is involved in a sexual encounter. Obviously, alcohol can have numerous effects on a person that hinders their ability to communicate and to comprehend a situation. Therefore, it's unwise to consider a sexual encounter with an intoxicated person as consensual, even if they never explicitly say "no". Many universities have adopted policies which state that a person can't give consent if they are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. However, these ideas are typically overshadowed by the pervasive drinking culture on college campuses. It's estimated that alcohol is involved in at least half of the sexual assaults that occur on college campuses. Some universities do implement strict and effective rules to combat sexual assaults. However, there are a few that do too little or nothing at all, which makes the problem even worse. The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights reports that they are currently looking into 53 cases involving universities that mishandled or failed to report sexual assaults on their campuses. One case that has gotten a lot of attention involves Florida State University's star quarterback, Jameis Winston. An FSU student accused Winston of sexually assaulting her in

December 2012. The university reacted slowly to the accusation, and didn't conduct any sort of formal investigation until nearly a year later. Their investigation was arguably halfhearted, and it concluded when Winston refused to cooperate with questioning. He was never charged with any crime. Many people believe that he received preferential treatment because he is a nationally known college athlete. Similar accusations have occurred at other universities in the past. All of these various factors have led to the Obama administration taking serious action to combat the sexual assault epidemic. On April 29th, Vice President Biden announced the measures that would be taken in reaction to the findings of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Like previous studies, the task force discovered that one in five women report being sexually assaulted while in college. They are most likely to be attacked during their freshman or sophomore years, and most of the case either go unreported or uninvestigated. To combat this problem, Biden announced the launch of promises to provide transparent data about what the government and universities are doing to combat sexual assaults on campus, and it will provide victims with access to support services. It will also call on all universities to conduct surveys by 2016 to determine how frequently sexual assaults occur on their campuses. "Colleges and universities can no longer turn a blind eye or pretend that rape and sexual assault doesn't occur on their campus" Biden said. But the problem doesnt solely involve the actions (or lack thereof) of college administrators. Biden also said that men need to take a much bigger role in confronting the problem of sexual assaults on college campuses. Biden asserted that it's never OK for a man to attack a woman, and that men need to do more to empower victims and stigmatize attackers. President Obama echoed Biden's views back in January, when he said that the current sexual assault rates are "totally unacceptable" and that "real men do not hurt women". In order to

encourage more male participation in the effort to end sexual assaults, the White House recently released an anti-rape PSA starring prominent male actors such as Daniel Craig, Steve Carell, and Benicio del Toro. Here at La Salle University, similar actions have been taken to address and combat the sexual assault problem. In April, the university held a series of events that highlighted the unacceptably sexual assault rates on college campuses. Dr. Mary Ellen Balchunis's Women in Politics class planned and organized a panel discussion on sexual assaults, titled "Preventing Sexual Assaults on College Campuses. Speakers such as Kathleen Bogle, the Director of Women Studies, and Crystal Veronica, an Education Specialist for Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR) talked about how serious the problem is and what can be done to combat it. All of the speakers agreed that proper sexual education is needed at an early age to erase warped beliefs about what constitutes rape. If young children do not know about inappropriate touches and activities, they may grow up believing that they are acceptable forms of physical contact. This is reflected in the aforementioned stats pertaining to high school students that see rape as acceptable in some circumstances. The speakers also encouraged men to take sex out of the equation when it comes to drinking and partying. When alcohol is present, women may be unable to fully express consent, which can leave them more vulnerable to unwanted advances. In addition to the panel discussion, many students and professors also took part in the "Take Back the Night" vigil, which raised awareness about attacks on campus and offered support to victims that have been mentally and emotionally scarred by sexual assault. Dr. Balchunis's Mass Media and Politics class also used social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to highlights how serious this issue is. They also raised money for victim relief services and coordinated their efforts with local businesses. The work that is being done both by the

Obama administration and La Salle student goes a long way in making the nation's college campuses happier, safer places to be. The sexual assault epidemic is out of control, but it can definitely be corrected. As more people begin to talk about this pressing issue publicly, politicians on national, state, and local levels will become more galvanized to tackle the problem aggressively.