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One Girl’s Voice: Rape in College

As a senior in high school, I spend a lot of my time thinking about next year, when I’m at college. Among my current college-related stresses are financial aid, applying for scholarships and the actual decision about which college I’ll attend. All of these are, of course, normal worries. However, as a young woman in the U.S., I also have something else to worry about as I enter college: the possibility that I will be raped.

Rape and assault are the subconscious fears of every woman. It’s the reason we fear going out alone or to a party. It’s why we can’t wear a skirt too short or a too-tight dress. It’s why every time a man gives us a strange look on the street, our hearts begin to race.

I’m tired of being afraid.

I’m sick of dealing with this ridiculous worry. I don’t want to face the fear of being blamed for something that isn’t my fault. And I don’t want to constantly remind myself of a list that shouldn’t have to exist: how to not get raped.

Always watch your drink. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t appear vulnerable. Don’t let a guy think you want it when you don’t.

According to a survey by the Center for Disease Control, almost one-fifth of women in the U.S. have been raped. The survey also states that 43.9 percent of women have experienced some sort of sexual violence. That’s almost half of American women. One-fourth of the population. That means there’s a really good chance that at some point in my life, I’ll be a victim. Almost 20 percent of undergraduate women are sexually assaulted, and that leaves me and every other 17- and 18-year-old girl with terrifying odds.

I don’t know yet if I’m going to college 30 minutes away or 10 hours away. What I do know, though, is that the cycle of fear will continue in a different, more dangerous environment. My parent’s can’t come and help me. I won’t be near any of my old friends. It won’t be a party in a friend’s basement with their parents upstairs. I’m on my own, and I’m vulnerable.

If you want to get an idea of how bad it can get, read Rolling Stone’s article “A Rape on Campus.” Although the publication itself cannot verify whether every detail is true, rape on college campuses is an issue that cannot be ignored. Women still get raped. Lives still get destroyed.

Preventing rape entirely is a pipe dream. But there’s measures that colleges can take that they are simply ignoring. Colleges are notoriously awful at protecting victims of sexual assault. Oftentimes, victims are too afraid to report a rape. Or they don’t see the point in doing so. This is entirely understandable, seeing as only three out of every 100 rapists ends up serving time, and few colleges end up expelling students who rape.

There’s several things I am considering when picking what school I’ll go to. I’m considering the size of the campus, the racial diversity of the students and the requirements for my major. But I’m also considering my safety. I have no idea if I will be raped next year, or the year after that and so on. At college, it’s pretty likely. So rather than putting my trust in a broken system, I have to be able to watch out for myself. I can only hope that I am able to do that.

I can only hope that all of us can.

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  • Peter Moriarty

    I appreciate your commentary on the matter, however you have raised questions without attempting to provide any sort of answer or solution? Do you have any ideas or suggestions for the way universities should handle sexual assault on campus? Or perhaps, how universities could limit sexual assault on campus? If so, please share them immediately so we can work towards a solution.

  • Lanie Gray Macaulay

    Actually, your mother would be there in 30 minutes or nine hours, no matter what. To-do item: review how to gouge a dude’s eyes out with your keys or break his kneecap with your Doc Martens.

Susannah Mitchell

Senior Susannah Mitchell is the Online Co-Editor of the Harbinger with her soulmate, Julia Poe. She enjoys sweaters, feminism, collaging and actor Ezra Miller, whom she believes is a total fox. Read Full »

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