What sexual assault education?
As young adults who are still in the learning process, it seems that sometimes we are resistant to have conversations on hard topics such as sexual assault. Perhaps it is because we don’t have the proper language, or that we don’t want to offend anyone, but I think a lot of that fear derives from a lack of education on the issue.
As a senior that hasn’t been actively engaging in Colby’s weekend social scene for the past semester, I’ve finally realized how destructive the “hookup culture” is at Colby, because it results in a myriad of issues: insecurity, alcohol abuse, derogatory language towards females, sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and then the denial and victim-blaming for all these aforementioned issues. I had to be removed from this environment to fully recognize the extent of how it affects our community.
Granted, this is not a problem unique to Colby. Let’s look at Yale, a prominent, well-known institution where the DKE fraternity marched with their pledges across the campus (specifically in the area where almost all of Yale’s first-year women live) chanting: “No means yes, yes means anal” and “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I f--- dead women, and fill them with my semen.”
However, as college students, there comes a point where ignorance stops being an excuse. I think we are all aware that the treatment of women here during the weekend is terrible. It is the “norm” to not report, if as a female you are inappropriately touched by a male (and we all have heard the “he put his hands down my pants, up my shirt, grabbed my ass” stories over Saturday and Sunday brunch), it’s also the “norm” to watch your friends become a total creep on a weekend night and not say a word to stop them—like Jamie Fox said, “just blame it on the alcohol.” Yet alcohol is also not an excuse for the occurrence of sexual assault or for the lack of conversation around the issue. So what’s up Colby? Why do we let this happen? How much longer are we going to let this continue?
As an institution, Colby does have a few resources in place for sexual assault education. The best resource is the wonderful (but overworked) Lydia Bolduc-Marden in the Health Center. One women to take care of the about 900 females that are full time students here, as well as handle the numerous responsibilities that come with her job: overseeing Student Health On Campus (SHOC), working as a practitioner, supporting Active Minds, etc. The next attempt to make females feel safer (and perhaps the most visible solution) is those little cards on the back of bathroom stall doors. However, all of them became outdated at the beginning of the semester—but there isn’t any organization responsible to update this rather ineffective resource.
The buildings on Hillside and the Science Buildings have cards so old that the numbers for places such as the Health Center are wrong. Since Students Against Sexual Assault disbanded about two years ago that responsibility has fell on the also overworked SHOC, who cannot be expected to solve every Student Health problem and tackle every issue on their own. Another attempt to make students aware of sexual assault is done in the beginning of the year with the placement of a little booklet about sexual assault in our mailboxes, but that’s it, it is never explained to us—we can just toss it in the garbage and never acknowledge it.
As Colby students we believe that sexual assault does not happen here—not on our idyllic home! But I promise you that it does. Sexual harassment occurs every weekend at Colby at any party that you enter where men can’t keep their hands off of females or their language is despicable. one in four females will be sexually assaulted during their college years. If you take nothing away from this article, if you don’t have a conversation about this with your friends, just remember that: sexual assault happens at Colby.
Referring back to Yale, after the Fraternity incident happened, the Yale Women’s Center sprang into action and managed to get a sincere apology out of the fraternity and educate the campus on the effects of such behavior. Unfortunately, Colby does not have a Women’s Center anymore, and it does not look like a reality in our near future. Students are largely responsible for educating one another and basically policing the actions of their peers—but how can we call each other out when it has become so vague as to what is right and what is wrong.
In today’s world, rape is only considered rape if the victim is sober, dressed in the appropriate attire (meaning nothing exposed, no skinny jeans, short skirts), and looks her attacker straight in the eye and says no, and that is unacceptable. We need to educate ourselves now, we cannot afford to be like a jury in Italy last year, that acquitted a man of rape because the victim wore skinny jeans and the defendant for the rapist argued “there is no way he could have gotten the pants off on his own, she had to have helped.”
Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment are scary words but fearing these issues won’t make them go away. I propose that there needs to be more resources such as a Women’s Center on campus to help alleviate the responsibilities of SHOC and Lydia and create an environment that understands what sexual assault is and what we can do to stop it. It is a private and sensitive issue but the administration needs to revise their protocol and recognize the flaws within it—something a student here has already began to do. As a campus, we need to engage in these conversations and learn how this is destroying our community—we shouldn’t be quick to walk past our student body President who is encouraging us to sign a pledge against sexual assault because we’re scared of being vilified. College is a privilege, a beautiful opportunity that only 6.7% of the world gets to partake in—we should be doing more to educate ourselves about the realities of today’s society and how to make everyone feel welcomed, safe, and protected.