As I step on the elliptical for my daily sweat, I hear a ping from my phone. I immediately check and see I have an email from the campus police. Another “Timely Warning” is alerting me of another report of sexual assault on my college campus. This is the third email of this kind I have received within my first month at college. That is three sexual assaults in four weeks.
I have questions. You should, too. They deserve to be answered. For example:
- If, statistically, a small percentage of all men commit most of the assault and rape, why isn’t this an easier problem to fix?
- If there are serial rapists out there, don’t their friends have a hunch that they are serial rapists?
- Why don’t the police tell us if the sexual assaults are taking place at frats or lodges?
- Shouldn’t I know if I am more likely to be assaulted if I am at a fraternity party?
- Or is it more likely for me to be assaulted if I am going on a date with an upperclassman I just met?
- Why does the university encourage a victim to report assault to the administration or campus police first?
- Why shouldn’t a victim go straight to off-campus police for a prompt criminal investigation?
- And why are some administrators boasting about our high report rates? Because victims feel comfortable coming forward?
Not to burst any bubbles here, but the high report rate is not a good thing. Yes, it’s great the campus is being honest with reporting, but it means that people are being raped here and that means there is something wrong.
We should not be saying that it is great we have so many programs that prompt high report rates of sexual assault; we should discus WHY this is happening and HOW to stop it.
The orientation programs, the Spiders for Spiders movement, Clothesline Project, It Ends Now, Take Back the Night, the White Ribbon Campaign, and the recent It’s On Us campaign are a great start, and they provide essential education for students, but they are obviously not solving the problem.
While the university’s website on Sexual Misconduct does provide tips for bystanders and notes on what it means to consent, there is more that needs to be said.
Every fall, new students sign the Honor Code and take a quiz on the code to ensure each student understands what they are agreeing to. However, this code only discusses academic policies. Perhaps there could be a social Honor Code as well.
Perhaps it would be safer if the administration expanded on the topics discussed in the Standards of Student Conduct displayed online, and required every student to read and sign a Student Conduct Contract concerning sexual assault. This contract could include the following agreements:
- All student sexual contact requires prior, and continuing, enthusiastic consent from both parties. (This would mean that there needs to be an in-depth lesson on what consent actually means.)
- Intoxicated (drunk), drugged, passed out, or sleeping people can NOT consent to sexual contact, and any sexual contact under those conditions will be considered sexual assault for University of Richmond students. (We need to stop seeing alcohol as a complicating factor in sexual assault cases that slows the disciplinary process. It’s not complicated. If a person is drunk, they cannot consent. Alcohol should not be allowed to be an excuse.)
- Every student is responsible for intervening and reporting whenever they see inappropriate sexual conduct, especially when one party is impaired due to alcohol, or some other impairment.
- Finally, students who are accused of sexual assault, for not following aforementioned agreement, will appear at a hearing within one week of the accusation and if it is found that the agreement was broken, they will be expelled from the college.
This is the only way to truly stop this kind of behavior.
In addition, students need to demand to see statistics from Title IX coordinators and campus police about:
- Where the accused rapists are coming from.
- What percentage of reports in which alcohol is involved.
- And every student should be emailed a disciplinary report at the end of every investigation.
I want to know that if I am sexually assaulted, or my best friend is, or my hall-mate, that the perpetrator will face serious consequences. I don’t want to hear about the wonderful programs in place to help victims. I don’t want to hear how great it is that Richmond has a high report rate of sexual assault and rape. I want to know that I will be safe, and that people will be on my side, fighting for me if this ever happens to me.
Contact contributor Claire Comey at email@example.com