UCC Mainstream Online

Sexual violence issues on college campuses

Stopping the cycle of unhealthy relationships

The topic of sexual violence on college campuses, or anywhere, is difficult to approach. The vast amount of statistics can dehumanize and overwhelm, even though they remain very relevant. The personal stories needed to show the prevalence of sexual violence take courage to share and are not always treated with the respect and sensitivity they deserve. This presents quite the bind. Often that bind creates silence. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, “an average of 60 percent of assaults in the last five years were not reported.”
Sexual violence within college communities must be addressed because, according to Crisis Connection, “Every 21 hours there is another rape on an American college campus.”
As students on college campuses, many of us planning to transfer to university, the issues of sexual violence are pressing. A recent study from the University of Oregon gives a glimpse into the seriousness of sexual violence on campuses.
The University of Oregon study relates to sexual violence and institutional behavior and betrayal. The survey covered different forms of sexual violence, environmental conditions and institutional aspects.
Jennifer J. Freyd, Marina N. Rosenthal and Carly Parnitzke Smith of the UO department of psychology administered the study this past summer. Their preliminary findings have been updated. The percentage of females who indicated at least one non-consensual sexual experience during college was 35 percent. Sexual violence doesn’t just affect females. Although the percentage is noticeably less, 14 percent of male students indicated at least one non-consensual sexual experience.
Nineteen percent of female students indicated completed and/or attempted rape. And, according to the study, an overwhelming 90 percent of assaults and 86 percent of rapes went unreported to the university.
The study investigated the impact of institutional betrayal. Institutional betrayal is broadly defined by the UO study as creating an environment where sexual violence is considered common and normal, difficult to report, covered up and not handled adequately. Institutional betrayal and academic engagement seem to have a connection.
The study indicated that the “number of educational disengagements was higher for students who had experienced institutional betrayal after an assault than for those who had not experienced institutional betrayal.”
The study’s statistics have the ability to more clearly define the problem. What are some proactive and positive approaches, however, to addressing sexual violence on campuses and within communities? How does an anti-rape culture move forward?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states, “Prevention efforts should ultimately decrease the number of individuals who perpetrate sexual violence and the number of individuals who are sexual violence victims . . . In addition, comprehensive prevention strategies should address factors at each of the levels that influence sexual violence —the individual, relationship, community, and society.”
The CDC addresses sexual violence by focusing on protective strategies for the victim, the use of bystander strategies and by addressing risk factors in the perpetrator.
Jackson Katz, Doctorate in cultural studies and education from the University of California, Los Angeles, is a proponent of the bystander effect in addressing violence, both sexual and otherwise.
Katz encourages men to adopt the idea that violence against women isn’t just a women’s issue; it’s a man’s issue. Because sexual violence and violence in general does not just affect women, he argues that is all the more reason to see the issue as both a men’s and women’s problem.
“The bystander approach is trying to give people tools to interrupt that process and to speak up and to create a peer culture climate where the abusive behavior will be seen as unacceptable, not just because it’s illegal, but because it’s wrong and unacceptable in the peer culture,” Katz said.
The focus of the bystander approach is to get the public to acknowledge that they have a part in preventing and changing the environment into one that supports healthy interactions and relationships. Katz leads trainings to equip others to speak up and act out in order to end the perpetuation of violence. Training material and handouts can be found on Katz’s website: www.jacksonkatz.com
If you are a victim of sexual violence there are resources within Douglas County to help. The Battered Person’s Advocacy can be reached at 541-673-7867. Katz urges bystanders to use their voice and action to end the culture of sexual violence.