The Task Force Against Assault

President Obama has called for a national task force to help solve one of America’s most seldom talked about problems, the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. One would think that such a thing would not happen among a community of highly educated people, but unfortunately it does. Whether it was motivated by possible political gain or a genuine concern for American citizens is not relevant, what is relevant is the opportunity it creates to help rid ourselves of a problem that harms our fellow students and that can only be solved if everyone contributes.

The issue of sexual assault is a big problem in universities across the country and is one that should never be tolerated. We all can admit that many students would do almost anything for sex, but to force a person to do sexual acts without consent goes against the rights and respect we hold of utmost value.

It has been reported that one in five women who attends a university in America will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life. The scars from sexual assault which includes rape are often unseen, but the person afflicted with them has been reduced to the role of a victim.

Language has a significant role in matters concerning sexual assault. The vocabulary of abuse prevalent in our society draws attention away from the gravity of the issue. The terms “bad sex,” “gray rape,” “uncomfortable sex,” or “borderline assault” do not and should not excuse the aggressor. We use these terms to talk about assault outside the legal context. It is apparent “rape” carries a connotation far graver than “bad sex” does.

“Rape” is a crime prosecuted by the authorities; “bad sex”   is not easily prosecutable but not necessarily consensual either.

The vocabulary reflects our attempts to verbalize, and yet the words do not do justice to the experience. A federal task force cannot reform our vocabulary, but it can draw attention to negative effects of that vocabulary. The White House Council on Women and Girls released a report titled “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action.” The title itself differentiates “rape” and “sexual assault.”

Most attacks occur at parties where victims are “abused while they’re drunk, under the influence of drugs, passed out or otherwise incapacitated.”  The comprised state of a victim creates bias in the eyes of the law calling into question the victim’s mental faculty to consent or dissent. However, it is blatantly wrong to presume that the person “asked for it” just because he or she was drunk.

While sexual assault is a problem that affects both sexes, most victims are females assaulted by males (though this should not be a surprise). What is surprising is that according to the organization, RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network), two-thirds of rape victims know their attacker (38 percent were friends or acquaintances) and that 60 percent of sexual assaults will go unreported to law enforcement. That being said any solution that relies on law enforcement alone is bound to fail, therefore prevention that does not include law enforcement needs to be part of the solution.

Fortunately there are groups on campus that are working to reduce or eliminate sexual assault. One such group, CHAMPS (Challenging All Men to Prevent Sexism) is among several that advocate for men to treat women with the respect and dignity they deserve. This group encourages men at UC Irvine to respect women and avoid situations where sexual assault can occur, for example they advocate men to drink responsibly to avoid intoxication, as according to RAINN one-third of all perpetrators were intoxicated.

Also among the groups that advocate against sexual assault is the Violence Intervention and Prevention Program that works with UCI’s Greek Programs to reduce incidents of sexual assault in the Greek Community.

Now as for the proposed task force to investigate and prevent sexual assault, we feel that its value will not be seen in what they do in the field, but rather in what they encourage in others through their work. Let’s be honest, any bureaucratic task force is not capable to respond effectively to a wide variety of situations they are likely to find at universities across the country.

What we have is an opportunity to help and support the victims of sexual assault, and effectively prevent future incidents. Large movements start from small beginnings and this could be the beginning of something big, something that will forever change the way people feel at college. UC Irvine is a safe environment and there is no reason anyone should feel frightened or intimidated. But even Irvine is not exempt from the trauma and tragedy of sexual assault.

Shame or outrage is not enough, we must uphold the rights of our fellow students and respect their words of dissent or consent.


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