The local West Chester newspaper, The Chester County Daily Local, published an article on April 18 titled: “WCU Student Testifies to Sexual Assault.” This article outlined a horrific incident wherein a 20 year-old student went out to celebrate her birthday with a group of friends and woke up the next morning to a man having his way with her while she had been unconscious.
Worst of all, this man was a close friend. According to an artcle from The Huffington Post, “the fact is that 84 percent of rapes are executed by someone the victim knows.” In fact, according to the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy, “Most of the time a person is raped by someone they know, trust or love.”
While the incident evidently describes a rape, the offender’s lawyer had the audacity to question if there was indeed consent, despite the victim being passed out at the time of the assault. He questioned how she would know if she gave consent being that she was under the influence of alcohol. This is a prime example of victim blaming, an epidemic that prevents many victims from coming forward to report their assaults.
Victim blaming is when people provide excuses for the offender in attempts to justify their actions while blaming the victim. This is seen when people point out the amount of alcohol the victim consumes, the provocative outfit they may have been wearing or the previously established reputation of the victim. Ultimately, it was the decision of the assailant to take advantage of his or her victim that makes the incident a sex crime.
Informing everyone on the ethical wrongdoing that comes from victim blaming will hopefully bring to light that the victim is never at fault. When questioned on whether there was consent, the WCU student that testified on her sexual assault from The Daily Local article said, “I couldn’t even hold my head up because I was drunk… I just passed out.” The mere fact that she had to justify herself is the problem.
Incidents of rape are happening closer than any of us may have imagined. Simply typing in “WCU ape incidents” into Google, hundreds of search results will appear. While it is hard for any of us to prevent a sexual assault from occurring, it is our duty to recognize the possible signs that may lead to an assault, and to help and support our fellow peers who are unable to help themselves. Never blame the victim.
As a freshman college student at WCU, I personally have not been a victim of rape. However, I have been to parties, and from what I have seen, alcohol changes people’s behavior. I have seen guys grope girls and come in very close contact with them while being intoxicated. This is a red flag to a possible sexual assault later in the night, and being aware of this can help you stop an assault or prevent you from falling victim.
Nobody is an exception to the dangers of sexual assault. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. While men are certainly in danger of being a victim of sexual violence, most of us recognize that women are much more likely to be assaulted.
The big issue revolving around sexual violence is that the majority of victims do not report it. RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, stated that only 20 percent of campus rapes are reported, while the rest go unnoticed. Of the other 80 percent of victims that did not report their assault, 20 percent said they feared reprisal. Reprisal, or revenge, comes in many forms, and victim blaming is one of the biggest fears that face those that are assaulted.
While the importance of consent has been drilled into our minds, the college rape scene still exists. Consent is when two people say “yes” to having sexual intercourse with the absence of drugs and alcohol. Ultimately, dress does not determent consent, alcohol does not determine consent and reputation does not determine consent.
While there is no way to put an end to college rape culture entirely, being aware of the possibility of rape and the fact it does occur will hopefully prevent you from being personally victimized.
While there is no easy solution, reporting incidents of sexual misconduct is the first step to putting an end to college rape culture.
A student and faculty-led organization on campus called “Green Dot” aims to train students on being active bystanders in the face of sexual assault or stalking. Dr. Erin Hurt of the English Department is one faculty member who is involved in “Green Dot.”
In an email interview, she said, “I think students can play one of the most important roles in this, because students are the ones who can have conversations about sexual assault, partner violence and stalking with their friends, in their clubs and organization, and through this, help to change the norms in all of these spaces.”
West Chester University alone has confidential services that victims can go to cope with their assault. The enter for Women and Gender Equity (CWGE), located at Lawrence Center 220, is one confidential resource where anybody is able to report incidents of sexual misconduct on campus. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, call the director of WCU Title IX at (610) 436-2437.
Eryka Phillips is a student at West Chester University. They can be reached at EP872378@wcupa.edu.