After getting accepted into Dickinson College, one of the first things my mom wanted to discuss was my safety on campus, especially as a small, female freshman. I knew how the short lecture would play out: a discussion on how to drink responsibly, self-defense techniques to use in a pinch and how my friends and I would serve as each other’s personal bodyguards. As far as I knew, none of my guy friends had received a talk about sexual assault or rape.
The other week, all new Dickinson sorority pledges joined together in ATS for a presentation from the Wellness Center. We were introduced to the different parts of the Wellness Center and what resources were available there. The presentation also discussed a range of college-related concerns, such eating disorders, stress and time management, depression and suicidal thoughts and, of course, sexual assault and rape. The Wellness Center gave a detailed explanation of how to avoid getting in a potentially dangerous situation, how much alcohol we can intake before it becomes lethal and how to, in effect, prevent ourselves and others from becoming victims of sexual assault or rape. This was neither mine nor my friends first time going to a discussion about how we, as female college students, are at serious risk of being sexually assaulted or raped. The message I drew from the presentation was clear: as women at a college, we are the primary instigators and preventers of sexual assault or rape, all roots seem to lead back to us.
In the midst of questions about how to properly report a case of sexual assault or rape and where on campus the Wellness Center was. One girl asked a question I had never even considered: Will the boys at this school be receiving the same presentation?
Nearly half of ATS began snapping in agreement. Our presenter’s response was even more shocking. She stated that she had attempted to reach out to a few all-men groups on campus, but they hadn’t shown much interest. My response was one of utter disgust, yet, I was not the least bit surprised. Time after time, women are taught to never drink too much or wear something too revealing or present ourselves in an overtly sexual way, as if that is where the problem lies. We cannot make a change in the way our society views sexual assault and rape if we rely on potential victims to do all of the work. Telling men not to sexually assault or rape women will prevent nothing if they aren’t even sure what the definition of rape is. Likewise, telling girls to keep an eye on one another during a party is not an infallible system that keeps boys in control of their actions. The problem here is not the victim, it is the assailant.
Of course, women do not make up 100% of the sexual assault and rape victim population, which is why it is even more vital to speak to both men and women. The issue of sexual assault and rape cannot be gendered, it stretches throughout nations all over the world and genders across the entire spectrum.