There have been many high-profile cases of sexual assault on college campuses this past year as well as many powerful stories about victims taking a stand against their abusers to get legal justice for suffering their victimization, but accompanying these stories are always some negative responses. Assertions that it was the victim’s fault or that the victim is overreacting are all too common in these situations.There are alarming estimates that about one in four women who attend college will experience some sort of sexual assault during their enrollment period. Many of the solutions offered to end sexual assault on campuses leave the responsibility with the victim, advising them to carry weapons, avoid walking alone, and avoid drinking alcohol or other substances which impair judgment. While following these tips is certainly a good idea, and we advise that women do look out for themselves in these ways, the true solution to sexual assault lies not with the victim, but with the availability of consent education.
We’ve talked before about what consent education is, but as we specifically advise in our comprehensive Sexual Assault set, consent culture is essential to ending all sorts of acquaintance sexual assault. It is important to teach consent hand-in-hand with sex education, making sure to inform boys and girls from a young age that they must ensure that they have outright clear consent before engaging in any sexual activity.
Another useful practice in educating teens about consent is to have them listen to the stories of people who have experienced sexual assault. While our instinct may be to protect our children from these horrors, hearing details of sexual assault can help them develop a sense of understanding and empathy, making them less likely to commit sexual assault because of their grasp of the gravity of that action.
Many sexual assaults on college campuses and in social situations do occur because people do not have a proper education of what constitutes consent. Many people commit sexual assault without realizing that that is what they are doing. Many highly accepted social constructs that are not founded on consent culture dictate that there are certain ways men and women are supposed to act in regards to sex. Much of our culture expects women to act reluctant even if she wants to engage in sexual activity, and for men to be more aggressive about its pursuit. These ideals are commonly held but extremely harmful. They lead to much higher likelihood of sexual assault, as well as a higher likelihood that the victim of sexual assault will not receive the validation needed to recover from such an incident.