CHRIS SCHILLIG: No woman asks to be raped, but plenty of women are

By Chris Schillig | ALLIANCE REVIEW Published:

Prospective female students have a new question to ask admissions counselors as part of the college decision-making process: How likely am I to be raped on your campus?

This is not an idle inquiry. According to new statistics, women have a one in five chance of being the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault at college. For many campus administrators, it's a dirty little secret they'd like to keep on the down-low.

Well, no more. Recently, the federal government released a list of 55 colleges and universities with open "sexual violence investigations." Three Ohio schools made the list as of May 1: Denison, Ohio State and Wittenberg universities.

The culprit here is most often "date rape," which means that some readers will breathe a sigh of relief and sink back into their chairs, with visions of easy girls with smeared mascara who get exactly what they deserve.

The problem with this view is that it's just not true. According to the May 26 edition of Time magazine, which features a cover story on rape in higher education, many young ladies who find themselves in danger of rape have been manipulated into these situations by a small percentage of predatory males on campus. And some of these men are repeat offenders -- not that they've ever been arrested or convicted, of course.

One alarming study found that 6.4 percent of the male population at the University of Massachusetts in 2002 reported committing acts that met the legal definition of rape, according to Time reporter Eliza Gray. But half of those men averaged nearly six assaults each.

I'd imagine that it's a similar story at all schools, where the majority of guys are not rapists or would-be rapists. It's a small minority of men on any campus that view themselves as hunters, with females their prey and alcohol and drugs their weapons of choice.

The solution is not to boycott the 55 schools on the list. After all, the problem is systemic. Ironically enough, the answer to higher ed's war on females is ... education.

Parents need to educate their children -- male and female -- to be wary. Guys need to be taught that "no" really does mean no, and that finding a drunk or stoned woman, or getting a woman in such a condition to say "yes," still means no. An impaired person cannot give consent. It's rape.

Women need to be reminded that not all guys are good, and that alcohol and drugs lower one's inhibitions and invite disaster.

And all these Dudley Do-Rights on campus, the ones who would never dream of taking advantage of another person, need to be taught that the innocent bystander role doesn't cut it anymore. If a woman is in danger of being taken advantage of, step in and get her away from the situation.

Just as importantly, women who have been assaulted need to do an end run around campus security and dial 911 to get in touch with real police officers. Many colleges and universities are all too happy to handle such matters internally because it keeps them out of the public eye and avoids any embarrassing PR.

People who have been assaulted at work or at school have zero loyalty to these institutions and every right and responsibility to file a report with authentic police officers, not rent-a-cop wannabes. (Handling matters in-house is what allowed the Penn State child-sex scandal to continue for so many years, after all.)

Education extends, too, to those troglodytes in society who still believe that women ask to be raped by the way they dress, the things they say or do and the places they go. There's a term for the type of environment that is created when people think this way -- rape culture.

No woman asks to be raped, but plenty of women are.

Our college campuses should be places of learning and growth, not of coercion and violence. If you have a student starting the college-search process this summer, ask about on-campus violent crime. Ask about rape. Don't stop asking until you get a straight answer.

And if you never get a straight answer, strike that school from your list. When we start to demand not only a quality education, but also on-campus safety, for our tuition dollars, we'll see how quickly profit becomes a factor for nonprofit institutions.

Chris Schillig is an Alliance area educator and journalist. E-mail him at chris.schillig@yahoo.com and cschillig on Twitter.

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