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  • Writer's pictureTeagan Harbour

It’s Always “Cover your drinks,” Never “Respect others boundaries”

You just graduated high school and are preparing for college. You get your dorm room essentials, and your parents give you pepper spray. You ask why, and they respond with the statistics of people who get roofied or assaulted on college campuses. Over 30 percent of college females get assaulted on campuses, and about 8 percent of males get assaulted.

The precautions that mainly females have to carry out in day-to-day life to protect themselves are frightening. From holding your keys a certain way, to always locking your car doors immediately after you get in is a normality. Women carry out these customs without even thinking about them. It is a basic knowledge that you may need to protect yourself from others, which shouldn’t exist. Walking through town and getting nervous passing by “creepy” people shouldn’t exist. Walking through the city and being cat-called shouldn’t be normal. Walking through campus and having to call your friend to feel safe and not alone shouldn’t be normal.

Sexual assault on college campuses is being ignored. Survivors are being oppressed and not taken seriously. As of yet, no action has been taken to prevent these issues or instances. The percent of people who don’t report assault is 24.8 percent. There are many reasons that cases go unreported, including the fear of not being believed, the fear of coming into contact with the offender again, or not having evidence to support the case. With this, the lack of support on campuses also comes into play. Without any evidence, no offender can go down for an alleged offense. This leaves survivors feeling alone and underrepresented. College campuses are all talk when it comes to enforcing this kind of respectful education.

On September 19th, more than 300 students gathered in front of the Theta Chi fraternity at University of Massachusetts Amherst. The students were protesting the assaults of themselves and their friends. These objections got wild when windows of the house were shattered and a car adjacent to the building was flipped. The worst part was the frat brothers partying inside. Inside the building, boys were dancing and not taking the offense seriously. In my opinion, the protest was necessary to prove a point. Most survivors do not come forward about their experience because of the consequences they could face and the mental toll it could take on them. This event serves to enlighten the college’s administration in regards to the horrendous actions that take place on their campus. Some may say the act of violence is unneeded and childish, but this kind of protest is necessary to prove a point.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, over 90 percent of survivors don’t come forward. This is due to the high number of sexual violence on campuses. Sadly, some survivors are reported to feel alone, yet people will try to “reassure” them that others are in the same boat. By telling survivors that it happens to many others, this only shows them that their story is just like the others and leads to comparison. Knowing that millions of people face this trauma is disheartening and depressing when you understand the statistics.Crystal Curran, a student at the protest, was assaulted by a UMass student She said the person made her life a “living hell”. Curran also states that assault “impacts significantly more people than anyone wants to acknowledge.” Curran, like the other 90 percent of college students, remained silent when she was repeatedly assaulted. Such damage can change a person leaving them with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, or depression.

This type of wound is an ongoing hurt that many people never get over. Curran also adds, “It just made me feel broken. I was empty. I felt so guilty.” This protest at UMass will hopefully change the stigma and relieve some survivors of their anxiety and feeling alone. In response to the outbreak, the Panhellenic Council, which is in charge of the sororities and fraternities, released a statement. The Council states, “Sexual assault and rape are widespread issues that still plague many people in our UMass Amherst Community”. The council has acknowledged the issue, yet has taken no action. The council says, “We are actively working towards systemic change in Panhellenic life to better support women and survivors”. This statement infuriates me, knowing that people are aware and somewhat educated on the issues, and yet no justice is being served.

When an individual makes a claim, it must always be taken seriously. This offense is one of the most serious crimes and shutting a situation down and claiming the survivor is wrong, is damaging. I encourage colleges to instate rules making police reports mandatory in these cases. If in the hands of law enforcement, this could decrease sexual assault. No one wants to be labeled a sex offender for the rest of their lives, so colleges should let students know it is wrong in every way. With a rule like this in place, survivors will also feel more comfortable coming forward. With the reassurance that they are supported by the law, they may feel more comfortable with their scenario. Aside from UMass, many other colleges face this same adversity.

Boston University had students writing posters and making fliers telling the university officials to change their handling of sexual assault. Additionally, Northeastern University had an Instagram page made posting anonymous stories to enlighten people. Justice for survivors and their mental health isn’t talked about enough. Many people won’t come forward for years and reach out for help because they can’t come to terms with the situation. Reporting it anonymously can lead to a sense of acceptance. Acceptance can mean facing your offender and having a conversation, or speaking with a mental health professional. Realizing what has happened is a huge step in the healing process, which doesn’t always happen for some.

From “That is too revealing,” to “Cover your drink,” this is not okay. The real advice to offenders should be “Respect people’s boundaries” or “Know the meaning of the word ‘no’.” These actions will not be stopped by telling survivors to change themselves. The systemic problems behind the perpetuation of this culture are the offenders themselves. Knowing the consequences of your actions and the effects your actions have on other people is vital.

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