Staying Safe at School

September 04, 2008

Various statistics show that college-aged women are at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted than any other group of women. For the new school year, RAINN, the rape, abuse, and incest national network, has issued 10 Back-to-School Tips for Students. For example, here are two of their suggestions: “Get to know your surroundings and learn a well-lit route back to your dorm or place of residence,” and “Always watch your drink being prepared.” These kinds of tips are useful and can help women feel that there are ways to take control over their lives and lower their risk of being sexual assaulted.

But at the same time, some of the tips (such as “Try not to go out alone at night”) make me think about how often the responsibility to prevent sexual assault is placed solely in the hands of women. How often are girls and women told not to wear certain clothes, go out alone, or go to certain neighborhoods? And how many people blame women who are sexually assaulted for what they did or did not do to prevent it? (Were you drunk? What were you wearing?)

Instead of making women curtail their basic right to freedom and live in fear, why not address the root of the problem and find out why men assault women and then address those issues? Here are some back-to-school tips I might share with male students: “Don’t engage in sexual behavior unless you have received explicitly stated consent,” and “Seeing a woman in public does not give you the right to talk to, touch, or follow her.“ Maybe if they were told these kinds of tips as frequently as women are told to not go out alone, there would be fewer assaults!

In its online resource library, AAUW suggests strategies for preventing sexual assault on campus, including ways campus administrators can make their campuses safer. You can download a free copy of AAUW’s research report Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus to learn more about how students and faculty can create a safer campus climate. Also, this September 25, you can participate in RAINN Day 2008, an opportunity for students and faculty to engage in various events and campaigns about sexual assault — and maybe your programming can address some of the wider issues of sexual assault and hold more than just women responsible for ending it!

Holly Kearl By:   |   September 04, 2008

1 Comment

  1. Thanks I’m going to send this article along to a friend of mine who started grad school last week in a new town and state and last weekend was already sexually harassed.

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