Ana Bello: Sexual assault resides in unexpected places

Ana Bello

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In light of recent federal investigations, even the most pristine and academically rigorous colleges are being exposed for their negligence in reacting to sexual assault charges. It is appalling that an institution where a student is expected to work extremely hard, spend a fortune on to receive an education, and uphold their schools legacy cannot be protected.

A list of the 55 schools under federal investigation surfaced, and much to my dismay and to others, colleges such as Harvard, Dartmouth, UC Berkeley, and Princeton were on it. The reason there was such shock surrounding the schools that were on this list is because of their notoriety and caliber of students they admit. One foolishly believes that at such institutions, sexual violence would not happen, that education has fostered morality into students, but unfortunately that is not seen to be true.

College students are enraged, and rightly so, that their campus is not taking further inititiave in addressing sexaul assualt charges. Most recently, students at Columbia University are filing complaints with the Department of Education for their universities lack of acknowledgement and response to charges. Victims being silenced only fuels an offender’s ability to commit sexual attacks and go unscathed.

While the Obama administration is promising to place increasing pressure on these institutions to change their policies and protect victims, something deeper needs to change. Rooted causes need to be addressed for any type of legislation to be effective.

This made me question why students who attend Harvard for example, would even be apart of such a heinous act. Clearly the individuals there must be smart enough to understand the meaning of consent. However the problem seems to lie in a lack of consequences and a feeling of entitlement. Students feel as if carrying out sexual violence on another student will not result in any repercussions. And furthermore perhaps having gotten away with it for so long now makes it excusable.

What Educational departments fail to address on their path for safer college campuses is to meet concerns before they escalate to such extremes. Offenders do not simply arrive to college and decide that then is the time to begin sexuallly assaulting another student. There are small behavioral patterns happening priorly, happening even in high schools.

The harsh reality of rape culture is unfortunately perpetuated by society and the laxed mentality of high schools. Sexual passes while they may seem small originate somewhere, and that place is often our very own hallways. Sexual violence is allowed to continue to grow because of how easily it is ignored in smaller settings. A student making an advance on another may just come off as “flirtatious” or “aggressive” but when dismissed it allows for that behavior to continue.

In the beginning of my high school career I was asked to answer a brief survey regarding my feeling of safety on campus. But I never remember this survey being pursued or being told who I could talk to if I ever experienced sexual assault. A semester of health in freshman year did not allow me to fully grasp how prevalent sexual violence was. I most certainly did not grasp that then or in a few years I would be susceptible to it.

I would only hope that students would feel safe enough on this campus to report anything that has happened. Even more so I would hope that nothing  ever has happened. But one should not be so naive to think that their school is the exception and that sexual violence only happens in college.

 

What do you think?