Rape. It’s that ugly, scary word we don’t really like to talk about because it makes us uncomfortable.
We all know what it is. Or do we?
Rape is another word for a form of sexual assault. Louisiana state law defines sexual assault as non-consensual sexual intercourse or non-consensual sexual contact. This leads to another question. What is consensual sex?
The line of consent can be blurred when other factors, such as alcohol intake and relationship status, get thrown into the mix.
The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a 2015 poll that is one of the most widespread and recent studies conducted on sexual assault, and one aspect it analyzes is college students’ views on what consent is.
The study found college students are divided on consent’s definition; at least 40 percent said consent is given through the action while another 40 percent disagreed.
Let me make one thing clear: Consent must be given soberly from beginning to end in every individual instance.
Being in a relationship does not automatically guarantee consent. Having sex with an individual before does not guarantee consent every time the two parties engage in sexual activity.
Consent can be withdrawn at any time. It can be denied at any time. Consent is not something owed to you.
Northwestern State University’s Student Handbook states the following:
“Assent does not constitute Consent if obtained through Coercion or from an individual whom the Alleged Offender knows or reasonably should know is Incapacitated.”
Let’s break that down.
Coercing someone to engage in sexual contact or intercourse includes using threats or physical power that make an individual believe he or she is in harm and also includes consciously impairing someone’s ability to give consent prior to initiating the sexual act.
An individual is incapacitated if he or she is obviously unable to make a knowing and deliberate choice to engage in sexual activity. This includes, but is not limited to, the inability to communicate coherent thoughts, inability to dress or undress, slurred speech, etc.
This information should sound somewhat familiar. All NSU students are required to complete My Student Body tests and attend a Title IX lecture in their UNIV 1000 classes.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. There are ten key areas addressed by this law, one of which is sexual harassment.
Even though campus sexual assault policies are taught in freshman classes, what is the likelihood every student will remember all the information?
I have had multiple professors brush aside going over the Title IX policy in their syllabi to start teaching class material, to let students out of class early on the first day, or because it’s just been said so many times before.
Am I the only one who sees something wrong with the lack of discussion about sexual assault, especially on college campuses?
One in five women and five percent of men will be raped during their time in college, and it will usually occur during their freshman or sophomore year by someone they know.
Were you taught about the red zone, the first four to six weeks of freshman year where students are more likely to be raped or experience attempted rape? Did you learn about the process of reporting sexual assault and how there are two separate ones depending on which plan of action a complainant takes?
The fact that this information is not universal knowledge absolutely scares me. The scariest thing is that most sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported.
Could anyone guess why that is? For some universities, it is about maintaining a faux image of safety on and around campus. The first college that starts publicly acknowledging the reality of sexual assault on its campus will have the reputation of being the “rape college,” but sexual assault occurs on every college campus.
Imagine getting a letter from your university the summer before your first semester that sounds something like this: “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Clark, we are so excited Samantha has decided to attend XYZ University! We figured you should know that she has a one in five chance of getting sexually assaulted during her time on campus, and the frustrating part is the rapists are other students. Thanks for your money, and we’ll see you in the fall!”
What parent would want to send their child to that school?
Universities also have financial reasons to not publicize true numbers. Offenders who are found responsible for sexual assault often sue the college rather than survivors, so the institution will do whatever it takes to not bring on a lawsuit, resulting in minimal punishment.
Sanctions universities nationally have given include the following: suspension during summer vacation, Indiana University; a $75 fine, University of Colorado Boulder; and a 500-word essay, Gustavus Adolphus College.
These punishments reflect universities treating sexual assault as unserious.
While addressing issues with sexual assault on college campuses, this article is not meant to be a quick fix and enlighten all 10,572 students enrolled at NSU. It’s meant to start the conversation that isn’t happening.
If you want more information on how to report sexual assault or what constitutes sexual assault, visit itsonus.org. Students can also call NSU’s counseling office at 318-357-5621 or visit Student Union room 305.