By Emma K.
“The fact that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted while in college should frighten all of us.”
California Congresswoman Jackie Speier said this recently in a letter to her constituents when she and Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Meehan submitted new proposed legislation on the subject of improving campus safety standards.
Question to parents: Would you send your daughter to college if the statistic was that 1 in 5 women would be mauled by a bear? And that 80% of the mauling’s would happen to your daughter while she was a freshmen or sophomore? My guess is that the answer would be a sudden decline in enrollments across America accompanied by a spike in online college education.
Earlier this year President Obama created a task force of senior administration officials to make recommendations on how to involve the federal government in the process of raising awareness of the issue and getting colleges to step up to the plate and take responsibility for these crimes on their campuses.
Tough laws and penalties already exist for colleges that don’t conform to the reporting guidelines and many have already been hit with fines: Yale ($165,000), Eastern Michigan ($350,000), University of Montana (undisclosed), to name a few. The even tougher laws and penalties under discussion may or may not solve the problem, but I believe the root of the problem can be solved by Engaging with college students, Educating those students about the problem and Empowering those students to think and act differently.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) employed similar tactics when it was formed and I think successfully drove drunk driving fatalities down over a ten year period. It wasn’t easy to retrain people’s thinking on why it was a really bad idea to drive drunk, but it worked there and I believe it can work here. I heard a TED talk recently and the speaker was talking about how the best new technology was “disruptive”. Well, we need to disrupt the norm in order to effect change and keep college girls safe. We need to be confident and patient about our ability to effect true social change. Nelson Mandela waited 27 years in jail, to effect true social change in his country. Now that’s commitment and patience! He said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. We will not have to wait that long. Through education and action, we can get college students to take a different view on things.
College women need to be more aware of the dangers at college: The dangers of alcohol; The dangers of losing control of your faculties; The danger of being in groups of unfamiliar people; The danger of walking by yourself and the danger of being away from your trusted circle of friends.
College men need to be part of the solution too. President Obama said it was a priority was to find ways to encourage more men to intervene when they see an attack or to report assaults. He said: “I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure in terms of how they are supposed to behave and treat women.” Vice President Biden also recently said on the subject: “Men have to take more responsibility; men have to intervene,” he added. “The measure of manhood is willingness to speak up and speak out, and begin to change the culture.”
The University of New Hampshire and the University of Kentucky are taking action. They are teaching classes that show bystanders how to intervene. I think bystander intervention is going to be a huge factor in solving the problem of educating college students to think differently about this problem. President Obama and many members of Congress are taking action by implementing new laws, but educational movements such as bystander intervention training are going to empower college kids to take action too.
So it’s about the 3 E’s. Engage, Educate, Empower. Engaging and Educating leads to a new state of mind for college students. It empowers the girl to take a stand. It gives her “permission” to think and act in a certain way. She will be confident in her feelings and say No when she needs to say No. And it empowers the college men as well. They become confident in telling their friend that may be with a girl who has had too much to
drink: Back Off! Leave her alone. Take care of her–don’t abuse her. Really guys, is chivalry dead? If I decide to drink when I am in college and end up drinking too much, I would expect the kind of men I keep company with to stand up and protect me!
Lastly, this article focuses on what is commonly referred to as “acquaintance rape”. Unfortunately, “stranger rape” is more difficult to solve. In my blog I have addressed the violent stranger rapes this year at UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and Lehigh University. And there were many more. Freshman college women in particular are a target by violent sexual predators and probably because they are new to town and in unfamiliar surroundings. But I believe stranger rape can be helped by the use of modern technology. I have some ideas that I will share on that on my blog. Please stay in touch with what I am doing at standwithemma.com!
Please remember to Stand up. Protect. Love. Respect.
Emma is a 16 year old student in Santa Barbara County. She is the founder of standwithemma.com and is the Vice President of her High School Junior class. She will be applying to colleges soon. You can follow her on Twitter @standwithemma.