A few weeks ago, a friend came into my room and said she needed to debrief. She’d gone to “Take Back the Night” and wanted to talk through her emotions after listening to the stories she’d heard.
Take Back the Night is a rally held across the nation to protest violence against women. There is a rally in White Plaza that moves to a silent candlelight march and vigil and concludes with a “Speakout” to bring the community together. As the Take Back the Night website notes, “At lease one out of every three women worldwide has been the victim of sexual or domestic violence. As many as one in six men are also believed to be victims of sexual or domestic violence in their lifetimes. Of these crimes, less than 50 percent are reported to the police.”
For many students at Stanford, the most visible way we see sexual assault is when we see SUalerts on our phones and in our email inboxes. “The suspect is described as a heavy set white or Hispanic male, approximately 5’6” tall, of unknown age, wearing dark pants and a dark grey or navy long-sleeved sweatshirt.”
The reality, however, is that most sexual assault doesn’t occur in back alleys by strangers wandering in sweatshirts, but in more familiar places. According to a recent Time article, a study of the males at the University of Massachusetts found that 6.4 percent of college men commit or attempt rape; however, among that relatively small group of perpetrators, more than half were repeat offenders, averaging close to six rapes each. Most guys aren’t getting girls drunk to sleep with them, but there’s a pattern occurring with those who do.
When I was a freshman in college, I went to a frat party in spring quarter. A guy I’d used to see had recently pledged, and I had just come back from bowling at a Screw Your Roommate event. He had invited me to go to with his friend to the event, so after our group returned to campus, everyone headed to his frat.
When I got to the party, I immediately started drinking. Within twenty minutes, I’d taken several standard drinks worth of shots, and my former something/new frat star began getting forward. I’m a friendly drunk, and before I could process, the guy I hadn’t seen in three months was convincing my drunken self to go back to his dorm. During the course of the party, three separate people had approached me and asked if I was okay. I laughed and said, I can’t consent, because I’m drunk. When we left together, I wanted to bike, but my frat friend discouraged that as we stumbled back to his room.
Fortunately that night, my friend passed out before anything I really regret happened. As I left around 2:30 a.m., I ran into an RA who gave me tea, listened to me try to process what had happened and biked me back to the side of campus that I came from. It wasn’t until later that weekend when I debriefed with a gay friend that he pointed out that I’d been sexually assaulted.
It’s an issue that occurs to 19 percent of undergraduate women before graduation. President Obama recently released a video with Vice President Biden, Daniel Craig, Seth Meyers and Steve Carell calling to end sexual assault and underlining that sexual assault isn’t just a women’s issue. As Biden states in the video, “This is about respect, responsibility.”
Only 12 percent of rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement. As cited in the same Time article, a 2007 study by the National Institute of Justice found that over a third of victims did not report their assault to law enforcement, because they were unsure whether what “they had experienced was a crime and whether harm was intended.” It’s not just about the victim and the perpetrator, but the bystander too. If you see something, speak up.
Addendum: Defining sexual assault
Sexual intercourse is considered non-consensual and, therefore, rape when the person is incapable of giving consent because s/he is incapacitated from alcohol and/or drugs, or if a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability renders the victim incapable of giving consent. Whether the accused is a stranger, acquaintance, spouse or friend is irrelevant to the legal definition of rape.
Beside rape, other acts of sexual assault include forced anal intercourse, forced oral copulation, penetration of the anal or vaginal area with a foreign object and forcibly touching an intimate part of another person. Men as well as women can be victims of these other forms of sexual assault.
Contact McKenzie Andrews at [email protected]