Do you know what it feels like to be a female? What it feels like to not feel safe walking home alone at night with your key tucked, the jagged edge jutting out between your fingers and your pepper spray concealed in a side pocket of your bag. This is the world we live in—a world of fear.This is what it means to be a female.
Assault on women has been in the public eye for some time, and many organizations have been looking to find the frequency with which this occurs, particularly on college campuses. According to collegestats.org, the University of Richmond is one of the most dangerous schools for women when it comes to sexual assault and is currently under federal government investigation for a Title IX violation. The White House’s Not Alone report found that one in five women is sexually assaulted in college.
The school wants the students to feel comfortable enough, if it does happen, to come to it, and to know that they are going to receive support and resources whether or not they choose to share identifying information on the person who is accused or not, Westhampton College Interim Dean Kerry Fankhauser said.
“We’ve always looked at it as a positive that people are reporting,” Fankhauser said, “that they are sharing what’s happening because we know statistically it is happening every single weekend probably multiple times on our campus or with our students off campus.”
To shine light on the gravity of the situation, here is an anonymous account of a college student’s (from a different university) experience with sexual assault:
“It was pretty standard alcohol issues,” she said regarding the incident that happened within the first weeks of entering college. “I went to a coworker’s party at his apartment with my two other friends from work. My one friend got really drunk and so my sober friend took her home and I was left at the party alone, which didn't seem bad cause I was having fun. I started playing pong with some guys I met and essentially got too drunk to stand up so like fell into this guy and instead of helping me he like picked me up and carried me to his bedroom.
“And then just started doing stuff I didn't like; I never exactly said stop, but I didn't say yes either. And I remember crying afterwards and being lost so when I found my coworker—the host of the party—he told me that I could sleep it off in his bed, I was really confused and felt safe with him so I did. But then about 10 minutes after I fell asleep he came in and tried to do things with me too, so I got up, left and was wandering around in the dark outside alone. And I called another friend, a 30-year-old bartender (who had been working that night and was a really good friend), to come get me while I was like sobbing in some random neighborhood. He drove me home while I like begged him not to say anything even though he wanted to like beat the shit out of the kid. And the worst part was going back to work and having everyone think I was a slut for getting with two guys in one night, but in reality I was just too drunk to say no.
“[The coworkers] were like 21-22, I’m not a hundred percent sure. The bartender knew the one coworker (who hosted the party) and was really pissed at him. So I called him and asked for a ride home cause he lived close and knew where the boy lived. And I didn't want to report it because I knew the kid, it would make things awkward at work, and I didn't want my parents to know I was drinking. Also, I really didn't remember it for a long time. I knew something was wrong but wasn't sure of details. I felt shitty,” she said, laughing it off. ”And irresponsible for staying alone and all. I still feel shitty. It only happened last summer.
“If I could go back I would not drink as much or stay with friends. I don’t know. It’s fine (to go out) most of the time. Like, for a girl, you just can't be stupid in my opinion. And I was stupid. Not trying to belittle other girls who it happens to but I personally would just argue for hooking up to be looked at as more than it is right now. I think you should have a genuine care for the person you’re seeing and I haven't seen that lately. I just think hooking up with someone you have no interest in is bad news for the future and respect is key. Also, I don't think it really matters how drunk someone is, respect for a person should be an all-the-time kind of thing, whether they’re drunk or not.”
Sexual assault has been widespread issue on college campuses for years now.
I attended a male version of Think Again, the University of Richmond’s Sexual Assault prevention orientation seminar, and the message was pretty blunt: Don’t do that. If a girl is visibly inebriated, stay away. Don’t start a conversation with her. Look for the signs. Don’t take advantage of her. Don’t go near her. Don’t do it.
When sexual assault is discussed with girls, however, the message is to be careful. Feel free to talk to us. You’re not alone. We’re all here for you.
Sexual assaults on college campuses may occur in one in five women, but they also occur in one in seven men, according to the National Institute for Mental Health and Ms. Magazine Study of College Sexual Assault. For women, the seminar was centered on being able to express their feelings regarding sexual assault whereas with the male portion of the seminar focused on telling the males what to do and what not to do in regards to females when they go out.
“I think there have been many new things the school has done to combat this just in the past four years,” Fankhauser said. “Four years ago we weren’t even talking about Title IX as it applies to sexual violence. We’re doing that now. We’re [focusing] training around that.”
The school has various educational programs in orientation, but the Spiders for Spiders movement is a huge piece of what the school is trying to grow so that it can prevent things from happening and there are not as many timely warnings, Fankhauser said. Not because people are not reporting, but because the assaults aren’t happening.
The school has reshaped its bystander education program that takes place during orientation entirely. Beth Curry, who is the Sexual Misconduct Education coordinator, also has two student interns who are helping her come up with various campaigns and educational programs throughout the year.
“This is to help raise awareness and to ultimately help in preventing sexual violence, stalking, cyber sexual exploitation, sexual harassment in any form from happening on campus,” Fankhauser said.
Correction: A previous version of this story contained an error. According to the Not Alone report, one in five women is sexually assaulted, not raped, in college.
Contact news assistant Caroline McNamara at firstname.lastname@example.org