The Toxic Rhetoric Surrounding Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is one of the most prominent epidemics in our country, and arguably the most prominent on college campuses. It likely impacts every one of us in some way, even if we are not aware.

As a woman in college, I am acutely aware of sexual assault. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women is sexually assaulted in college, meaning that multiple people close to me will likely be victims of sexual assault during our time at Colgate. While I often overlook statistics like these, assuming they will not impact me directly, sexual assault is different. It sickens me to know that people in all of my classes, clubs and friend circles will likely be victims of sexual assault, and it’s not likely that their abusers will be held fully accountable for their actions.

The ample resources and support Colgate provides to survivors is reassuring, knowing that sexual assault will likely impact me or my friends. There seldom exists a women’s bathroom on this campus that does not have information about how to access Colgate’s resources and support systems, and the recent student-led marches and walk outs in light of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court are encouraging. Yet there still exists a fundamental problem with the way that we treat sexual assault, both on this campus and in our country.

Our country has an undeniable problem with gun control, but we don’t try to solve it with only thoughts and prayers. We are not told to stay out of the public as much as possible or wear bulletproof vests in our daily lives. Instead, we push our lawmakers for stricter legislation on gun control in order to remedy the problem from its origin. But when it comes to sexual assault, this is not the case. While this campus is filled with information about what to do after a sexual assault, where are the preventive measures? Sexual assault will not end until we commit ourselves to dismantling the systems upon which this sexist culture was built. Instead of telling women to keep themselves out of potentially dangerous situations to not be sexually assaulted, why don’t we actually make consequences for sexual assault harsh enough so that men will not sexually assault, and educate them on the necessity of consent? We don’t blame mass shooting on victims or burden them with stopping them, so why do we do this with sexual assault? I’m fed up with the culture of Brock Turners, who aren’t held accountable because of their privilege, and with the culture that tells women not to be raped before they tell men not to rape.

Believing survivors is essential, but it is not enough. Helping victims does little to stop the problem of sexual assault. We need to take our passionate support of survivors and expand it to fuel a change in the culture of sexual assault in which we live. We must call on our lawmakers to enact policy that mandates comprehensive education about consent as well as the severity and consequences of sexual assault. We must pressure them to heighten the penalties of sexual assault, so sexual assaulters rightfully serve time for their reprehensible actions. We must hold those in power to a standard of human decency, because the Brock Turners of the world should not be allowed to become Brett Kavanaughs.

Contact Kirby Goodman at [email protected].