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Editorial: “Not on Our Campus:” standing together against sexual violence

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).

Such startling statistics reveal that the issue hits closer to come than we may believe. Rape can often seem an obscure and distant concept—it’s not. Think about Carleton…think about your six closest friends. It is entirely too prevalent. The frequency of this crime should serve as a startling reminder that we cannot ignore rape and sexual assault as a pressing social and political issue—one that affects men, though less commonly, as well.

College aged women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general population.

On college campuses, alcohol and drug use decidedly influence sexual behavior. Legally, it is impossible to consent to sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In a culture that accepts “hook-ups” and casual sexual encounters, it has become increasingly difficult to determine if direct consent or refusal passed between the two parties. However, it seems clear that if consent is even a question, the event should be considered an act of sexual assault.

73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.

Perhaps it is easier to imagine a rapist as an anonymous stranger with objectively bad intentions. The reality is far scarier. Three-fourths of sexual assault victims know the perpetrator. It is possible that in these situations where the victim knows the perpetrator, the sexual assault is written off as a miscommunication or misunderstanding. A victim might rationalize away the event rather than confront the person who is already is a fixture in their lives. How does one bring this complicated issue into the legal and public realm without anticipating further trauma?

Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes, with 60% still being left unreported.

Sexual assault and rape violate the body on an extremely intimate level—the damage is both physical and psychological. The high rate of unreported sexual crime reflects a reluctance to risk further vulnerabilities. Reporting such a crime might be tantamount to reliving it.

We must create a safe environment that does not further victimize victims. Considering a crime that predominantly impacts women, we must eliminate antiquated stigmas that blame women in situations that result in sexual assault. It is unacceptable that there remains an attitude that because of the way a woman dresses or past sexual history signifies that she was “asking for it.” Such an accusation complicates the already emotionally challenging decision to come forward—regardless of gender.

Finally, we write this editorial keeping this week’s Not on Our Campus events in mind.We will take this opportunity to extend our support to its efforts and the values these events instill here at Carleton.

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