Sexual Assault on a College Campus -(anonymous)
People don’t like to talk about sexual assault. It’s uncomfortable. It’s even more uncomfortable to acknowledge that 85-90% of sexual assault victims know their perpetrator. Fifty-seven percent of these assaults take place during a date. It’s easier for us to think about sexual assault as “stranger danger,” that is, a strange man jumping out of the bushes and forcing himself upon a victim. It’s true, that happens, but not nearly to the extent that people would like to believe.
We talk about rape prevention in terms of not walking alone at night, not leaving our doors unlocked, walking to our cars with our keys ready to be used as a weapon, and hundreds of other techniques to keep us safe from strangers lurking in the darkness. The problem is, these prevention techniques aren’t what we should be focusing on.
Flagstaff is a college town, and as we know, one in five college women are sexually assaulted. Most of these assaults occur during “The Red Zone,” or, the time between new student orientation and Thanksgiving Break. The concept of this zone is appalling, but it makes sense. All over the country, freshmen come to schools away from home not knowing many, if any people, and being unsupervised by their parents, often for the first time. They are eager to make new friends, and many quickly seek out the party scenes.
I was sexually assaulted during the Red Zone, and years later, I realize how typical my situation was. I moved to Flagstaff knowing no one. I wanted to make friends, and the easiest way to do so was at parties. One of the first weekends of the semester all of the girls on my floor went to a football game together. We all pulled up our shirts, and wrote “GO NAU” on our stomachs. We were excited to be at college. We had alcohol, and we drank before the game, as well as during it. I remember getting separated from my friends and making friends with a guy named Brian*. We did some shots, and after the game, we walked out of the stadium together. I planned on walking back to my dorm, but as we walked outside, I fell and cut my foot. “No worries,” Brian said, “I’ll take you back to my room and we’ll get you all cleaned up.” I told him alright, but that nothing was going to happen between us. He said ok. We went back to his dorm where he propped me up on his bed and cleaned up my foot. We started kissing, and I remember telling him “We’re not going to have sex.” After that, my memory got blurry. I was going in and out of consciousness, and I realized Brian was having sex with me. I was so out of it that I couldn’t stop him. It didn’t last long, and when I came to again he kissed me goodbye and told me he’d call me. I stumbled back to my dorm, and passed out for 14 straight hours.
I woke up feeling guilty. I felt easy. I remember hoping he’d call, and thinking that I liked him. It never occurred to me that I hadn’t consented, and that he’d taken advantage of me. In hind sight, I realize that I justified wanting him to call because if he did, and if we began dating, then I wouldn’t feel like a “slut.” It took me years to realize that this was sexual assault, and that it was unacceptable. I never saw Brian again and didn’t think about him, until about two years later when I saw him as a customer at the restaurant I worked at, and had a panic attack. I didn’t realize how much he’d affected me.
Our conversations about sexual assault prevention need to change. We need to talk to incoming freshman about the Red Zone. In Flagstaff, we need to tell new students that alcohol at 7000’ does not affect people the same as at sea level. And we need to take away the stigma of sexual assault; we need to stop victim blaming. Intoxication, the outfit a person has on, or the fact that he or she has consented to sexual activity in the past, even earlier that day, is not consent. Consent is not blurry. It is black and white. And it’s not only “no means no;” it is “yes means yes.” We need to teach “don’t rape,” not “don’t get raped.” It is my hope that the more we have these conversations, the more rape culture will begin to dissolve, and that maybe, someday, I’ll even feel safe enough to release this article with my name attached to it.
*Brian is not his real name.