The first few weeks of fall semester always brings up a wide myriad of emotions, but each year I come back to campus I have the same feeling –one that is experienced by the majority of college women: fear.
No, not fear that my professors will grade harshly or that I will trip on the stairs and make a fool of myself. Fear that I will become a part of the statistic known as the “Red Zone,” or the time period at the beginning of the semester where female students are most likely to be sexually assaulted.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 50 percent of on-campus sexual assaults happen during this time period. However, young students on their way to college are learning more about how to find the derivative of a square root than how to lower this horrific statistic.
This is attributed to one major factor: rape culture.
SaferUtah defines rape culture as “the normalization of rape and sexist comments, the objectification of human bodies and the glamorization of sexual violence.”
This may seem like a broad definition, so Nicki Lisa Cole from ThoughtCo breaks it down with examples. Examples of rape culture include but are not limited to: sexual online harassment, threats that are framed as “playful” or a “joke,” trivializing the trauma of sexual assault or rape, victim-blaming and sexual objectification.
These cultural norms are even more prominent in Utah, where sexual violence statistics are higher than anywhere else in the country. It is reported that one in three women will be sexually assaulted and one in eight will be raped.
According to the Utah Daily Chronicle, lack of proper sexual education is also a large contributor to these unsettling statistics.
“Less education puts individual women in a place where they have to teach individual men what is okay and what isn’t,” the Chronicle states. “This can turn into something very confusing and dangerous.”
This is especially true since the Department of Justice reported that a friend or acquaintance is the perpetrator of 90 percent of sexual assaults.
Therefore, talking about sex and rape in a safe and educational environment can lead to safer sex for all parties involved and ultimately condemn the prevalent rape culture that affects so many women today.
“In order to change the rape culture in Utah people need to be aware and willing to learn,” the Utah Daily Chronicle stated. “People need to be able to feel comfortable talking about sex and consequences that surround sex.”
The abstinence-based education system that is currently in Utah schools is ultimately doing more harm than good, and it is time for a change.
St. Benedict and St. John’s University offers things you can do on your own to combat rape culture in the meantime:
- Avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women or men.
- Speak out if you hear someone else making an offensive joke or trivializing rape.
- If a friend talks to you about being raped, be supportive, encouraging and take it seriously.
- Think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships and violence.
- Be respectful of others’ physical space, even in casual situations.
- Always communicate with sexual partners and do not assume consent.
As Zerlina Maxwell from Time says: “Rape culture is real and serious, and we need to talk about it.”