August 6, 2014 — Various media outlets recently published editorials and opinion pieces reacting to a bill (S 2692) introduced last month in the Senate to address the prevalence of sexual assaults taking place on college and university campuses.
~ Catherine Rampell, Washington Post: Post columnist Rampell praises the new bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act's aim to "create new transparency requirements for U.S. colleges, requiring them to conduct anonymous, standardized, representative surveys about student experiences with sexual violence." She writes that because "there is so much incredulity about the prevalence of sexual assault, schools face perverse incentives to underreport incidents for fear of being seen as unusually dangerous even when their crime rates are merely average." She concludes that the "universal survey requirement would" not only "force schools to publicly acknowledge the extent of sexual violence on their campuses," but also allow them to "focus instead on better ways to prevent and respond to the crimes themselves" (Rampell, Washington Post, 8/4).
~ USA Today: The editorial argues that while the legislation contains some "[w]orthy proposals," it only "focus[es] on what happens after someone is raped" instead of preventing the crime. According to USA Today, "More focus on prevention is needed, in particular on a binge drinking culture that leaves students more vulnerable to sexual assault and makes cases harder to prosecute." The editorial notes the correlation between alcohol use and sexual assault, adding that discussion around the connection "invites a fierce backlash," such as "accusations of victim-blaming, of shifting the focus from perpetrators, or advancing a notion that women must curb their behavior instead of rapists curbing theirs." However, "the primary goal ought to be to do as much as possible to prevent rapes, not just handle them better afterward," which "includes everything from training bystanders to spot and disrupt dangerous situations ... to sharing uncomfortable risk factors," the editorial concludes (USA Today, 8/4).
~ Dana Bolger, USA Today: Bolger, who recently graduated from Amherst College and is a co-founder of Know Your IX, writes that although she followed "years of directives to 'avoid' getting raped: Don't drink, don't flirt, don't walk there, don't attract attention," she was "raped [her] sophomore year of college, sober, in [her] dormitory and, like most campus victims, by someone [she] knew and trusted." She explains, "A lifetime of warnings doesn't keep women from getting raped. It just keeps [them] from lives worth living." Bolger argues, "While it's comforting to think that more talk about less alcohol will reduce the violence, it's neither illuminating nor true: Women already know the 'safety tips'" and yet still "suffer violence regardless of whether [they] follow them -- whether [they're] drunk or sober, in mini-skirts or sweat pants, 18 years old, or 8, or 80." Instead of focusing on such warnings, Bolger suggests combatting rape by "challeng[ing] the conditions of inequality that allow gender violence to flourish," teaching "consent education in elementary schools, teach[ing] boys not to rape, and hold[ing] perpetrators accountable in our colleges, churches and families" (Bolger, USA Today, 8/5).