Due to awareness of my own identities and privileges, I have chosen to tackle sexual assault college campuses. The United States Department of Justice highlights a chilling statistic: one out of every four female undergraduates will be victim to some form of sexual assault before graduation. There is an average of 293,066 victims ages 12 or older of rape and sexual assault each year in the U.S. This means 1 sexual assault occurs every 107 seconds. Sexual assault, a type of sexual violence, is a term that applies to a broad range of forced and unwanted sexual activity. Those who study gender relationships have long since made the argument that this crime is about privilege, power, and control. Gender studies have long since explored how institutions structurally uphold male privilege, and the rampant rate of this crime on college campuses suggests validity to that claim.
The film “The Hunting Ground” explores the nature of this problem. Its powerful exposé on the epidemic of rape crimes explores how the crimes have a long and horrible impact on the lives of the victims, their communities, and their loved ones. Rape is a crime that disempowers women; when it happens at school, those women often end up struggling to get the most out of their expensive education and also alienates them from their community—meaning that this crime disempowers them in more ways than one. The film also explores how the universities have failed to address this problem; often times going to great lengths to protect the male perpetrators reputations at the cost of the wellbeing, education, and health of the female victim. The film exposes how universities across the nation avoid the issue through the means of victim blaming, harassment and ignorance. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimates that at least 95% of campus rapes in the U.S. go unreported, meaning that most victims do not receive the support they need and deserve.
A lot has already been done. Victims have organized informal lists of perpetrators and have banded together to take down high-profile perpetrators as part of the #metoo. One called “shitty men in architecture” has several people from my own school, the GSD, on it. Title 9 was a huge step forward in fighting sexual assault on college campuses, but this was one of the first things that Trump overturned when he got into office. The amount of stigma and the intensity of what one has to go through in order to report these crimes also may be a factor that prohibits individuals from reporting; many universities within the last few years now have free counseling available that doesn’t force the victim to report their crime. Online services (and apps!) for victims are very popular: For example, the brand new non-profit, better brave, was started by a friend of mine to give women resources outside of their company’s HR department to report sexual assault or discrimination. Other groups have tried to create online versions of rape crisis support. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really stop the crime from happening, but it does help by providing victims with the things they need. Companies are also starting to build in support systems for these kinds of crime into their services.
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