Understanding sexual assault on-campus
Although the issue of on-campus sexual assault is finally receiving the attention it deserves, it remains a topic that many are still hesitant to acknowledge, let alone actively confront. This is understandable, considering that recognizing those individuals, the majority of whom are women, whom are sexually assaulted and victimized — stripped of control, power and dignity — is a hard fact to realize. The oft-cited and harrowing statistic from the U.S. Department of Justice is that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted while in college.
It is easier to remain ignorant and act as if this could not be happening right under our noses at our University and easier to believe that survivors brought it upon themselves: she drank too much or she shouldn’t have worn that dress. We often make survivors “the other,” those who do things we never would, so that we can distance and protect ourselves from the idea that it could happen to us.
Rapists do not “look” like rapists, which makes the acknowledgment of this even more difficult. They are not strangers who ambush their prey in a dark alleyway — they are athletes, frat brothers, roommates, boyfriends and classmates. To cite the DOJ again, in 80 to 90 percent of sexual assaults, the survivor and perpetrator know each other. It is hard to believe that an acquaintance of ours is capable of doing something so disgusting, but this denial allows perpetrators to remain under the radar and perpetuates a sense of entitlement, allowing them to continue victimizing.
It is time that we end this. However, it will be impossible to do without all of us realizing the severity of this issue and addressing it honestly and directly. Working to quell popular myths surrounding sexual assault, as well as victim blaming, will be invaluable. Understanding the level of acceptance of sexual assault at the University is the first step — going straight to the source is critical in determining what needs to be improved in order to solve this problem. The iSPEAK survey conducted in the fall, as well as the current focus groups, are an effort from the School of Social Work’s Center on Violence Against Women and Children to understand students’ attitudes at Rutgers to sharpen education and prevention programs. Enhancing the services offered to survivors is vital. We have been given the opportunity by the White House to be at the forefront of ending on-campus sexual assault, and as an alumna and current graduate student, I am so proud and have faith in my University. We are capable of creating the change that needs to happen, so that others may look to our progress and become motivated to address this issue at their respective institutions.
Samantha Lukenda is in the School Of Social Work majoring in social work.