One in every five women are the victim of sexual assault while in college.
Across the United States we are seeing a sweeping movement that is looking to hold perpetrators of sex crimes responsible for their actions. From board rooms to class rooms, accountability when it comes to sexual harassment, sexual assault and gender discrimination is no longer being tolerated. Before the “Me Too” movement there was Title IX, an initiative that was created and implemented in higher education settings.
The Title IX statute was established in 1972 to promote gender equality among educational institutions that receive federal funding. The statute has been extremely effective in aiding female college athletes. It is reported that the number of women who participate in collegiate sports has increased over four-hundred and fifty percent. However, the broad spectrum of the statute seeks to end sexual harassment, sexual violence, and gender discrimination through education and training.For many young women leaving home at eighteen and going to college means living in a dorm and forging lifelong friendships on their path to a career and adulthood. This is the ideal but too often this ideal is not the reality. Sexual assault among young women is often perpetrated by a close friend or love interest. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), twenty to twenty-five percent of women and fifteen percent of men are victims of forced sex during their time in college. This betrayal often makes these types of assault difficult for the survivor to cope with. With the Department of Justice (DOJ) claiming nearly eighty percent of cases going on reported and the CDC claiming this figure is closer to ninety percent on college campuses. This number is so low according to Kelly Birch Maginot, PhD, and Assistant Director of Advocacy Services, Campus Advocacy Network (CAN); Women’s Leadership and Resource Center due to “slut shaming” and “Fears around how you’ll be perceived if you report.” Two of the young women I spoke with on campus, both asking for their names to not be used, touched on this, one telling me “we have the same friends so I didn’t want to be excluded from stuff, ya know” and the other telling me that a guy she had “hooked up with” later posted “really nasty comments” about her on social media site Facebook.
In her book, Girl in the Woods: A Memoir, Aspen Mattis writes, “I’d been given stacks of reasons to blame myself for an act of violence committed by another. I had blamed my flirting for his subsequent felony. My college taught me: my rape was my shame. Everyone I’d trusted asked only what I might have done to let it happen. In my gut, I’d always believed I’d caused it. I finally questioned it.”
According to the UIC Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, sexual assaults on campus at the University of Illinois at Chicago have increased by two-hundred and fifty percent in just two years’ time. Going up from two reported sexual assaults in 2016 to nine in 2018. Crimes including, rape, fondling and stalking are all up from previous years despite a mandatory Title IX training for students and faculty.
The question now becomes, are the number of assaults rising or are we seeing a rise in the reporting of these assaults. More women have come forward in the past two years than ever before, in large part because of the “Me Too” movement. Maginot believes this is in part due to, “Not just formal reporting but people sharing their experience online.” With the “Me Too” movement being global, Maginot states, “There have been quite a few very notable rape or sexual assault or domestic violence cases around the world and because this kind of global conversation is happening activist have been able to get more support, get some transnational support so that we’re recognizing that violence happens in every context.”
One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. The numbers are telling of a rape culture that has gone on for decades. With the new movements aimed at encouraging victims to speak up and speak out will the future tell a new story? What can we teach our children before sending them out into the world? What additional measures can be taken by educators, legislators and students to ensure safety on campus?
While Title IX has had effectiveness in promoting gender equality, education will be key in curbing sexual violence, sexual harassment and other violent sex related crimes. Maginot says, “Effectiveness and training around sexual violence is a really important issue…there’s a lot of factors that affect both your experience and expertise but also what you might see and witness on or around campus, so it’s kind of a toss-up right? You want everyone to be aware and educated about sexual violence and gender based violence but at the same time those on-line webinars can be a little ineffective because everybody has to do it, right? It’s a big topic of debate in outreach and education circles.” The CAN, offers a variety of education trainings that bring a more personal story to aid in ending campus violence. For more information on upcoming events visit https://can.uic.edu/.