University Life — What the Tours Won’t Tell You

Ella Sharrers, Staff Writer

College: the exciting, independent chapter of life. There are many highlights of university — but what about the imminent dangers? The amount of sexual assault on college campuses is a major issue, yet it is constantly pushed under the rug, and it is time for it to be addressed.

College is presented in the media as a sort of movie: Greek life, personalized majors, dorm rooms — the list goes on. These enticing aspects deserve the attention they receive, but there is one concern that the media does not cover enough, and that is the number of sexual assaults on campus. Freshman at Texas Christian University Sydney Sharrers says that she is sometimes “scared of walking alone at night,” and her worries are justified. According to statistics from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), “13 percent of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.” This statistic is unbelievable, and yet there is little to no coverage from news sources on it. Sharrers agrees that “crimes against women [on campus] are sadly underreported,” and the lack of reports could be due to the absence of attention any of the reported cases receive. An article from BestColleges reveals that “[reported] cases do not always protect the victim or properly punish the perpetrator,” and this is a scarily realistic statement. Further into the article, it is stated that “most college-age victims do not report sexual violence on campus. This is especially the case for college women who only report 20 percent of sexual assaults to authorities.” Many of these incidents tend to take place at parties — often involving Greek fraternities and sororities — and Sharrers also states that “if things such as alcohol were involved, women may fear getting in actual trouble for the report.” The terrible truth is, Sharrers is right. When partying and drinking become details in the story, the blame is often turned onto the victim. IHS senior Luca Wilkinson says that he wishes himself and others were told that “it is the one who hurt’s fault, not the victim — ever.” This fact is not taught nearly as much as it should be. Women are taught ways to avoid and prevent these situations from occurring. IHS senior Morgan Gentzen says that she has heard about sexual assault cases surrounding “frats and during parties.” While men should just be taught not to rape and assault, oftentimes, this necessary lesson is dismissed. Freshman at the University of Oklahoma Landon Olsen expresses how “it’s just different for a guy… While guys can be victims, it’s just not as likely.” Olsen’s comment makes an important point — men getting assaulted, including on college campuses, may be less common, but it is certainly not unheard of. The lack of reports for sexual assault cases, according to the article from BestColleges, states that “victims who are men also report sexual assault at lower rates — potentially due to shame, humiliation, or the stigma around men being vulnerable.” Along with being taught to simply respect and prioritize consent, it is also important to note the importance of teaching men how to express themselves and how to feel okay in being vulnerable. The lack of coverage and education on sexual assault cases involving both men and women is a large contributor to the reason why the issue of sexual assault on campuses is not reported by victims. 

The issue of sexual assault on college campuses is not limited to cisgender men and women, nor is it limited to the gender binary at all. According to the statistics from RAINN, “23.1% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been assaulted.” Wilkinson expresses how “as a trans man… I’m afraid to walk in my suburban neighborhood, where I know everyone, at night. I can’t even imagine walking around a large college campus where I barely know anyone.” It is important to recognize that cisgender people are not the only ones at risk for sexual assault. The lack of normalization in reporting sexual crimes is universal, but the safety of the LGBTQ community is also at risk when it comes to assault on campuses. An article from MotherJones in 2019 writes how “37 percent of undergraduate women at [University of Southern California] reported some type of nonconsensual sexual contact since enrolling,” and also states that “more than one in four undergraduate women from 33 large universities have experienced sexual assault while they were students.” The fact that rape and sexual crimes is so common on college campuses, and yet so unheard of, is heartbreaking, and the media must do better to protect and help the victims of these crimes. 

While sexual assault on university campuses receives nowhere close to enough media attention, colleges have been informed enough of issues all around the country both inside and out of school campuses to implement safety measures and resources. Sophomore at Texas Christian University Lauren Armstrong comments on her university’s measures, including “light poles to hit if you feel unsafe, which will lead the TCU police department to you,” and a taxi-like service called the “Froggie 5-0” that both Sharrers and Armstrong consider to be very dependable. Sharrers says that you can call this service to take you from “the parking lot to your dorm,” as well as anywhere around or on the campus. Freshman at the University of Wisconsin Madison Sophia Cancelosi comments on a similar resource on her campus called SafeWALK, where “you can text a number and someone who is a part of the program will come get you and walk you home so that you are never walking by yourself.” From light poles to driving services to accompaniment while you walk, many universities have taken measures to protect and prevent crimes that students generally consider to be effective. Despite these known measures, incoming college students still have a few very valid fears. IHS senior Danielle Levin says that they have “heard of some colleges taking actions against criminals, but I’m not sure if those are just on certain cases or if they are doing it regularly.” While Levin considers university safety measures to be “effective and dependable in theory,” they do not think the preventative measures do “as much as they should.” IHS senior Chelsea Park says that she “hasn’t heard of safety measures. I’ve only heard of cases.” 

There is not enough said about the dangers of sexual assault on college campuses. Incoming college students are rightfully fearful, and many college women have developed worries for their safety during their time at school. Preventative measures must be prioritized, as well as taking action to help the victims of these terrible offenses.