Over the course of the past year, “sexual assault” has become an all-too-familiar phrase on college and university campuses. This issue has been at the forefront of the media and has garnered the attention of not only colleges and universities, but of senators, the president and military officials alike.
San Diego sexual assault attorney Jessica Pride recently spoke about this problem to a group of UC San Diego sorority ladies, offering the students guidance and courage.
“It is my hope that through education and understanding, young women will be able to identify what qualifies as rape and what options are out there to help themselves and their fellow women.”
Campus Rape Myths
There are a number of myths that tend to surface about sexual assault and rape on campuses. These tend to prevent the victim from having a clear understanding of their unwanted experience and may ultimately prevent them from reporting it to authorities.
The following are examples of such myths, as well as the facts that refute them:
- “Rape is committed by strangers in dark alleys.”
- “He’s basically a nice guy. He would never do it again. I don’t want to ruin his life.”
o Of 120 rapists in one study, 63% were serial offenders. (Lisak & Miller, 2002)
- “Women lie about rape.”
o Only 7% of cases from a sample of 750 rapes in San Diego were false reports
- “He was drunk, and so was she, so there must have been a miscommunication.”
o A person is incapable of giving affirmative consent while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
o On average, at least 50% of college students’ sexual assaults are associated with alcohol. (Copenhaver and Grauerholz, 1991)
Other notions of victim-blaming often surface. Many involve how the victims must have reacted, dressed or behaved.
“Well, did you fight back?” “Did you scream for help?” “What were you wearing?” “You must have been ‘asking for it’ by wearing such provocative clothing.”
These comments build doubt in a victim’s mind and shift blame, leading to hesitation and indecision and complicating a situation that is already difficult enough to deal with. Perhaps because of this, the number of campus rapes reported to authorities is shockingly low. The Justice Department estimates that fewer than 5% of completed and attempted rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement officials. This is far below the rate of the general population, where about 40% of all sexual attacks are reported to police.
One study conducted by Dr. David Lisak at the University of Massachusetts-Boston interviewed 1,882 men in college and discovered 120 of them had committed a total of 483 rapes. NONE of these was ever reported.
Let’s delve even further into college life and what seems to be a common place for sexual assaults to occur: Fraternity parties.
‘Sexually Violent Subcultures’
As previously mentioned, the prevalence of sexual assault on campus has become an uncomfortable norm. Frat parties can cultivate a rape culture that victimizes many young women. The predator isn’t necessarily a stranger in a dark alley at 2 a.m. It can be your good friend turned belligerent or a senior crush on the football team whom you thought you could trust.
“Sexually violent subcultures” – which is how Dr. Lisak describes fraternities and gangs – promote the idea of “sexual conquest.” Having sex with as many women as possible is a measure of how some men view themselves and compare each other, according to Lisak. Most of the men also use alcohol to make the victims more vulnerable.
Jessica Pride has been a strong voice, advocate and leader for women who have been the victim of sexual assaults and rape, whether on a college campus or elsewhere. She’s committed to increasing awareness and doing what she can to make sure that women know how to stay safe and know what to do if they become a victim.
Jessica is San Diego’s premier personal injury attorney representing sexual assault victims. If you’ve been the victim of a sexual assault, you need to know that you can seek justice in civil court. Contact Jessica today by calling (619) 516-8166 or fill out the form on this page to learn more.