Campus sexual violence has always been a big concern for students, parents and guardians, and universities. However, the risk of campus sexual violence was exacerbated after the Covid-19 pandemic when a high number of students visited the campus for the first time without a decent exposure to the life at campuses. After the students returned to the offline mode of study, there were much higher numbers of sexual violence on campuses and a lack of adequate support from police and the officials at universities.
The prevalence of campus sexual violence negatively changes the lives of several thousands of students forever. One in five women and one in sixteen men are sexually assaulted while in college, as per PCAR. Experiencing sexual violence adversely affects the lives of the victims in both the short and long term. It can lead to developing health conditions like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, PTSD, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and suicidal thoughts. Suffering from these mental conditions furthermore impacts their self-esteem, confidence, academic performance, relationships with friends and family, etc.
Despite the detrimental effects of campus sexual violence in the US, about 90% of the cases stay unreported due to myriad reasons. Most often the survivors choose to stay silent because of the emotionally taxing and time-consuming process, which could be arduous to balance with the academics. Furthermore, in most sexual violence cases, the perpetrator is someone known to the victim, which also creates the fear of experiencing the crime again. Many students, especially males, do not report their crimes because of the stigma associated with sexual violence in society.
As per research that focused on better understanding the prevalence of sexual violence at campuses in the US, it was found that the below-listed types of students were the victims of campus sexual violence, in the order, from most affected to least affected.
Racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities
Sorority women, students with disabilities
Students with past histories of sexual victimization
The same research showed that the most prevalent forms of sexual violence on campuses include unwanted sexual contact, sexual coercion, alcohol-related sexual assault, physically forced rape, and attempted rape.
What Can be Done?
The heinous sexual crimes and the drastic effects need to be addressed by students, parents, and institutions altogether to bring about a change and lower the risks of sexual violence on campuses.
To prevent sexual violence around yourself, it is primarily indispensable to acquire knowledge regarding the crime. Most often, actions that might appear trivial to some like cat calling and stalking, are the ones that lead to sexual violence. To notice such actions and take steps against them, it is crucial to understand sexual violence in depth.
When students witness sexual violence around themselves, they must know about the precautionary steps that could be undertaken to safeguard the students around them and themselves. Many colleges provide education and sexual violence awareness to equip students with the techniques to prevent crime. Students should actively take part in such educational campaigns.
Parents can play a pivotal role in the prevention of campus sexual violence. They must focus on providing their children with an appropriate education that helps children understand the importance of consent and boundaries. Parents should also create a culture that allows children to practice their rights over their own bodies in families and social circles, this will help them understand the indispensability of consent in all types of relationships.
Furthermore, before admitting their students to universities, they must know about the educational policies of the university and the ways it tackles sexual violence on campuses.
Universities have a major role in preventing sexual violence. With appropriate campus safety measures, they can avoid the upsurge of sexual assault at campuses after the Covid-19 pandemic. Colleges should offer educational programs and campaigns to ensure that students, faculty, and parents have the required knowledge regarding the subject of sexual violence.
Furthermore, universities should also equip campuses with security guards and transportation services to lower perpetrators' scope of committing a sexual crime. Campus safety applications can also be useful for students while they are on campus.
What is Title IX?
Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendment prohibits any form of gender discrimination in K-12 and postsecondary education settings. The objective behind the same was to ensure equal rights to learn regardless of sexual differences.
It says, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance (Title IX of 20 U.S.C.A 168)."
The law, however, is not solely restricted to that, it also states the measures that schools and colleges must take to handle sexual crime on campus.
With a few changes and awareness, we can combat sexual violence on campuses and make studying safe for students all around.