February 26, 2014 — "The one-in-five figure for sexual assault [on college campuses] should make the parents of a college-age daughter shudder, but it doesn't give the full picture," writes Monika Johnson Hostler, president of the board of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. She notes that numerous studies "have found that college survivors suffer high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and drug or alcohol abuse, which can damage their ability to succeed in school."
The one-in-five figure, from the "landmark" 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study, garnered "widespread" attention when it was published, but "keeping a focus on this scourge of college life has not always been easy," she explains.
In particular, the "underappreciated complexity of the relationship between alcohol consumption and sexual assault" remains an "area of concern," she continues. Although the involvement of alcohol in sexual assault cases is often used to assume the victim is "partly to blame," the "unsettling truth" is that "[a]lcohol is sometimes used by rapists as a tool for rendering their targets more vulnerable," Johnson Hostler writes.
"Notably, campus perpetrators are often serial offenders," she continues, adding, "These men know that alcohol, in addition to rendering their victims more vulnerable to assault, also makes them less likely to remember the event and less likely to be believed or taken seriously if they report it."
She argues, "Greater public understanding and strengthened prevention efforts must be undertaken in a dedicated and consistent way before young people get to college." She urges schools to go beyond the Campus SaVE Act -- part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (PL 113-4) -- and "pair with rape crisis centers and expert advisors to meet the spirit rather than just the letter of the law" (Johnson Hostler, Wall Street Journal, 2/24).