Student urges Jays to inform themselves, understand what constitutes sexual assault

Alyssa Broda April 24, 2013 0

The Elizabethtown College sexual misconduct policy is a vital read for every student on the College’s campus. Too many people view rape as a violent act perpetrated by a man with a mask hiding in the bushes. As a result of this inaccurate image of sexual assault, many women and men write off sexual assault as bad sex or a giant one-night mistake. The College’s handbook describes in great detail what consent is and how one knows when someone else is consenting (hint: it is not as simple as you might think). It also gives real risk reduction tips for both the potential victim and potential initiator of sexual assault. The College understands that women are raped in their dorm rooms or at parties by men who think are friends, not by men lurking in back alleys. This real understanding of sexual assault and rape is rare in a world where only some rapes are seen as “legitimate” and victims are often blamed for their attacks. By accurately portraying rape, the College has created a system where victims are safe to report sexual violence and rapists actions are never excused.
The handbook describes lack of consent as the critical factor in any incident of sexual assault. It states that consent is informed, freely and actively given and requires clear communication from all parties involved. Silence is not and cannot be interpreted as consent. The handbook also makes a clear distinction between seduction and coercion. Coercion, when someone unreasonably pressures someone else for sex, violates the school policy as much as physically forcing someone into sex. One of the most important descriptions of lack of consent is sex under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. When someone is under any influence, whether alcohol or drugs, effective consent is not possible.
In addition, the use of alcohol or drugs is not an excuse to rape. The idea of consent seems elementary, but many students still do not grasp the concept. Many rapists don’t know they are rapists. In a study profiling over 1500 students, one in 12 college-age men admit to meeting the definition of rape or attempted rape, but none of these men identify themselves as rapists. In the Steubinville rape trial, students testified they did not stop the two football players from raping the unconscious 16-year-old because they did not think it was rape. They did not think penetrating an unconscious girl was not violent enough to be nonconsensual. The College’s policy clearly states what consensual sex is and is not. More students need to clearly understand consent so they can know if they have been raped and so they do not become rapists themselves.
In addition to consent, the College’s sexual misconduct policy lists risk reduction tips. Many times, tips to prevent rape include “don’t walk alone at night” and “don’t wear your hair long because rapists can grab you by the hair.” These so-called tips perpetuate the idea that women are raped by random men that attack them in public. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest, National Network (RAINN), two-thirds of victims know their attacker, and 38 percent of victims are raped by a friend or acquaintance. The College’s rape reduction tips include “say no clearly,” “be assertive” and “don’t be a silent by-stander.” The handbook also clearly indicates that even if a victim was not assertive and did not clearly say no, she or he is in no way at fault, and the rapist is still very responsible for his or her own actions.
In addition to risk reduction tips for potential victims, there are tips so that students do not commit acts of sexual violence. “DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS” is labeled loud and clear as the very first tip. Other tips include “Mixed messages are a clear indication you should step back” and “Don’t take advantage of one’s drunkenness or drugged state.” These tips recognize that students are raped by people they know and trust enough to allow themselves to be in an inhibited state around. It also clearly recognizes that people take advantage of people who have been drinking or using drugs, but their intoxication is not an invitation for sexual behavior. The College’s tips hold the rapist responsible, something other rape prevention tips fail to do.
The College’s sexual misconduct policy is a clear indication that administration understands how rape is perpetrated on college campuses. It also shows initiative to protect and support victims without blame. “She was drinking,” or “she seemed into it at first,” is not an excuse, nor is “I was too drunk to know what I was doing.” Drinking and hook-up culture are part of college life, and whether or not that is good or bad is irrelevant to this conversation. It is vital, however, that students know the difference between a bad hook-up and sexual assault. Reading the College’s policy helps students know the difference.

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