College Sexual Assault: Why We Should Care

College Sexual Assault:

Why We Should Care

―Jamie McEachin, Head Copy Editor―

With close to a quarter of Cosby’s population headed out into the world next year and a majority of those students headed to college, remaining safe on college campuses is on the minds of many. Over the summer, the case of Brock Turner spurred an already heated discussion of the safety of women on college campuses and how campus administrators react in the aftermath.

According to RAINN, 11.2% of all students experience (some type of) rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students). Additionally, only 20% of female student victims, and 32% of male, ages 18-24, report to law enforcement. Often, victims believe the authorities can’t or won’t be able to help in the aftermath of a sexual assault. Cases like Brock Turner’s aren’t encouraging.

News of the urner case spread when a letter the victim wrote to the judge of her case went viral. The case was made even more infamous with the judge’s decision to sentence Turner to the lowest sentence possible for sexual assault, 6 months, so as to not ruin his future as a swimmer. The outrage this inspired poured from the internet, media, and law officials, and further pushed the topic of college rape into the national spotlight. Still, Turner was released after serving only half of his sentence for good behavior.  

The Stanford victim’s personal statement shows the effects of sexual assault on victims and highlights the unfair treatment these victims can face. She wrote, in an essay published by Buzzfeed News, “I told the probation officer I do not want Brock to rot away in prison. I did not say he does not deserve to be behind bars. The probation officer’s recommendation of a year or less in county jail is a soft timeout, a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults, and of the consequences of the pain I have been forced to endure. I also told the probation officer that what I truly wanted was for Brock to get it, to understand and admit to his wrongdoing.”

She continues, “The probation officer weighed the fact that he has surrendered a hard earned swimming scholarship. If I had been sexually assaulted by an un-athletic guy from a community college, what would his sentence be? If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be? How fast he swims does not lessen the impact of what happened to me.”

This disregard for a victim’s rights in favor of the star-athlete rapist’s rights is frighteningly common; another case that came to light this past summer was a bit closer to home. The University of Richmond has been accused of mishandling a student’s reported sexual assault, and the student, CC Carreras, wrote about her experience with the university in an essay on the Huffington Post.

She says, “It’s easy to be disgusted with men like Brock when we don’t know them personally, but for some reason it’s harder for people to be as unbiased when they know the accused. People seem to think that knowing someone automatically means that that person is incapable of committing sexual assault. The reality is that such an assumption is incorrect. Just because we don’t know Brock Turner, it doesn’t mean we don’t know someone like him.”

And the University of Richmond has made strides to combat sexual assault after much student protest; The Collegian, University of Richmond’s on campus newspaper, reported changes that include the creation of a Center for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, the separation of Title IX processes from the coordinate college system, and the increase of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) resources for all students, especially survivors of sexual assault. But there is still a long way to go before students will feel completely safe.

Carreras concludes, “I knew coming forward about my rape wouldn’t guarantee that I would feel safe at school again. What I didn’t know, however, was that upon coming forward the University of Richmond would join the ranks of schools known for protecting their athletes. So when I say we don’t know Brock, but we might know someone like him: we do.

(Header Photo Courtesy of Jamie McEachin)