Sexual assault on college campuses! Who’s responsible?

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The perpetrator is ALWAYS responsible for his or her crimes. Whether it is something as harmless as a 10-year-old child throwing a rock through the neighbor’s window or something far more threatening and harmful, like a male college student sexually assaulting a female peer incapacitated by alcohol. Clearly and unequivocally, the perpetrator is responsible. This blog entry does not attempt to identify “who” is responsible. We know who that is. Whether his sorry no good parents who produced him and sent him off to college to prey on women-OR their attorney, believe it or not-the responsible one is indeed their son-the perpetrator. This blog is designed, not to assert who is responsible for these crimes, but rather to address what we can do to stop it. There are two things that we need to do in order to stop sexual assault in its tracks on college campuses. One is to report the crime to law enforcement personnel when it happens. (not simply to college personnel) And the second thing that needs to be done is prevention. We need to teach our girls about the dangers of sexual assault in typical college settings, and then equip them with simple skills to help them avoid becoming a victim. I read an article this morning that absolutely alarmed me. But as in every case, considering the source, it may or may not be surprising. Ms. Hartman is a recent graduate, very young I am sure. Probably not a parent herself, which as we all know, puts a very different spin on life and the lenses through which we see and process information. Nevertheless, Avery Hartman, (a recent Syracuse University graduate and intern for USA Today) reported in USA today the absolute necessity to report sexual assault on campus. And I agree with that point. A crime which by all accounts goes unreported a good portion of the time. Indeed, according to TIME magazine, sexual assault of our girls on college campuses happens to 1 in 5 of them, and typically it is college freshman. Furthermore, combined studies have shown that a mere 12% is reported to law enforcement. Another study revealed that about 30 percent (or 1/3) are reported to a college counseling staff. (Which begs the question, what is the staff doing with those cases reported to them but not to law enforcement?) And furthermore, TIME reports as follows: “The 1-in-5 number shouldn’t be taken to mean that young American men are a horde of violent rapists. The best research suggest that a large proportion of the worst offenses are committed by a relatively small group of students-sexual predators who find college an alarmingly auspicious environment both for targeting women and escaping punishment.” (Time Magazine May 26, 2014) So if you think I was too hard on the parents of these specific perpetrators earlier in this article, now at least you know why-whether or not you agree. But back to Ms. Hartman’s article. Her main point, the entire gist of her article, was report the crime. Nothing about prevention. Nothing about the dangers lurking at college parties where alcohol is prevalent and free-flowing. Nothing. IN FACT, that isn’t even the alarming part. The alarming part is that she actually discourages prevention. “Our responsibility is not to cover ourselves up and tamp down our desires. It’s not a question of being careful enough, because we shouldn’t have to be. In an ideal world, my mother shouldn’t have had to tell me to keep an eagle eye on my drink and use the buddy system at parties. Instead, our responsibility is this: to report it. To tell someone, to seek help and to stop blaming ourselves.” I am highlighting Ms. Hartman’s article here not because she is an anomaly. But rather, because I am afraid that FINALLY when sexual assault on college campuses is getting the spotlight it deserves, we are going to miss this huge piece. There is a dangerous trend in mass media, not just with Ms. Hartman. And that trend is this: the tendency to render our girls completely incapable of taking care of themselves, completely helpless and destined to be victimized. I am an old ex cop. (no emphasis on old) So let me outline this for you Ms. Hartman, female college students, and parents of girls I HOPE are reading this. Wearing your personal rights as a badge of honor at the expense of simple preventative measures, is totally reckless. You may as well hang a medal on your chest that says “victim.” Remember when you were little and played bad guys and good guys? Well, the bad guys here are the perps committing sexual assault! And the bad guy doesn’t give a flip about your personal rights. If he did, whenever he encountered a drunk and incapacitated coed, he would respect her. Indeed he would remove her from danger, not place her in danger. And he certainly would not rape her. THUS, the nick name “the bad guys.” Ms. Hartman’s quote is unbelievably naive: “It’s not a question to be careful enough, because we shouldn’t have to be. In an ideal world…..shouldn’t have to keep an eagle eye on my drink and use the buddy system at parties.” Parents first of all, we don’t live in an ideal world. Secondly, if you choose to participate in casual sex, would any sensible person, parent, or professional ever in a million years, recommend not using condoms? No, on the contrary, we would recommend condoms or abstinence. Anything else exposes the willing participant to AIDS, STD’s, pregnancy, etc. Yet, on the other hand, USA Today along, with many other media sources, publishes articles like Ms. Hartman’s sending this message to our college freshman: ‘Yes, by all means go to parties, do your thing girl, have fun, get drunk, and when and if you do get sexually assaulted, be sure and report it to law enforcement and get help.’ God help us. God help me if I send any one of my three teenage daughters off to college without teaching them a few basic tools necessary to maximize the chances they will not be a victim. No, I insist we teach our children, sons and daughters, to be proactive, not reactive. In this case, reporting the crime, while absolutely necessary, is reactive. Proactive is making wise choices. It’s taking necessary precautions like letting someone know where you will be for the evening. It’s being aware of who your friends are and who they are not! It’s understanding that freedom of choice, while a wonderful privilege, means that some choices we make can make us very vulnerable to pain. I tell my girls when they are walking into the movies never walk and look at your phone at the same time. Not allowed. Remove the element of surprise from the “bad guy” and you are immediately less vulnerable. We should not allow ourselves to believe the lie that is perpetuated constantly in this self-entitled culture that says if we are careful about our choices: opposite sex, parties, etc., then we are boring and destined to be bored. On the contrary, our kids will be healthy, happy, adjusted, savvy, and full of life when they know and believe they are personally capable of helping to prevent themselves and others from becoming victims. In fact, the more our college aged kids take personal action to prevent sexual assault in the first place, the more they are in control of their own future, their personal rights, and what happens to their bodies. Do you really want to empower young women on college campuses to combat sexual assault? Reporting the crime is paramount. But it is only half of the equation.

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