In an ongoing effort to prevent sexual violence against both women and men, the White House Council on Women and Girls issued a call in January for a rise in awareness and prevention of sexual assault, according to an article published Feb. 15 by FOX News.
The response, so far, is encouraging. The University of Virginia sponsored and hosted a conference for faculty and students addressing the issue, Delegate Jon S. Cardin of Maryland sponsored a bill in Maryland that would require state colleges and universities to administer anonymous surveys on sexual assaults to better measure on-campus assaults, and Princeton Vice Provost Michele Minter Victims told NPR that she thinks that victims of sexual assault are tired of their claims not being taken seriously in the past.
Despite some insistence that the focus needed to be on the attackers themselves and not on a college’s social climate as the root of the problem, the conference at the University of Virginia attempted to address the impact of drinking and hook-up culture in relation to sexual assault. This slight shift in thinking marks a positive change in our understanding of the roots of sexual violence.
But it’s not enough.
In her presentation at the 9th Annual Edith Stein conference, Donna Freitas, author of “Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses,” and conductor of a sociological study on hook-up culture, said that many people told her about sexual encounters that should have been defined as assaults – and that usually, the person sharing their experience did not know they had been, by legal definition, sexually assaulted.
This is horribly, horribly wrong.
The students in question saw their assaults as an inevitable injustice, thanks to their college’s hook-up culture. The majority of students interviewed by Freitas said they would prefer to eliminate the hook-up culture entirely –sadly, each of these same students felt they were the only ones who wanted out.
Even if, by some chance, hook-up culture on college campuses isn’t responsible for propagating sexual assault, the students’ desire for change should be enough reason to reform.
In order to eradicate sexual violence against both men and women, a more aggressive response is necessary – the creation of safe spaces for victims of sexual assault, for example, so that the crimes can be reported honestly and the problem eradicated with as little additional harm done to the victims as possible. This problem needs to be treated proactively by creating a culture that values the human person.
In fact, it seems that most modern problems would be solved by a civilization of love and culture of life. Not only would changing the way the human person is viewed help in ending sexual assault, but would also contribute to the end of other evils, such as abortion, the lack of a living wage and the sex trade.
But change requires more than good intentions. Change requires willing hands. Change requires people.
Franciscan University students, as a result of their access to a moral education, have a responsibility to be the change the world so desperately needs.