Sexual assault reinforced by University culture

As we reported this week, Tempe’s loud party citations and robberies dropped precipitously last October, during Operation Safe and Sober. What did not drop, however, was the number of sexual assaults. In Tempe, sexual assaults have increased steadily from 43 in 2010 to more than 50 in 2013.

The argument that we should teach men and boys to not rape is inherently flawed. It’s victim blaming and fails to address the problem; Rapes are a product of predatory behvaior perpetuated against someone of any gender. We need to come together as people and say that sexual assault is a terror upon humanity and should not be a constant threat to the students at our university.

One way that ASU can do this is to change the language in the Student Code of Conduct. In Section Three, entitled “Lifestyle Issues,” our university claims that to prevent sexual assault, one shouldn’t, “...drink alcohol in a high-risk setting for sexual assault (e.g., frat house or team parties or with persons you don’t know and/or trust).” The University removed similar messages telling students to “as a female, avoid parties where males greatly outnumber females” in December, following The State Press editorial board’s semesterly meeting with ASU President Michael Crow.

About those words and the possibility that they were contributing to a culture that places blame and responsibility on victims of sexual assault, Crow said, “I’m sure it was no one’s intent to do that... so we should look at those words, and we should think about what we’re saying and how we’re saying it.”

Moreover, ASU, which claims to support Greek life, actually calls fraternities out for creating situations where awful crimes can occur. At the same time, we should note that ASU has specific guidelines that enforce the golden rule of consent. No matter what the situation and regardless of whether alcohol is involved, it is paramount that consent is given.

Unfortunately ASU has not taken a long enough look at guidelines that are given to students to keep them safe. This is a strong and clear message that the University’s culture is backed up by misogyny inherent in our culture. It’s not ASU’s fault that people commit crimes, but it’s not enough to distill generation-old ideas about assault and give them to students as a guide to keep them safe.

The University has procedures in place to bring those who sexually assault to justice, procedures that are carried through even if the victim withdraws the charges. ASU must make these procedures more transparent and actually follow through on them.

Other universities, such as Penn State and the University of Missouri, have recently faced trouble for these issues. The FBI has stepped in to investigate procedures at Penn State, while Mizzou is in the media spotlight because administrators did not investigate an alleged rape despite learning of it in 2010.

It’s sickening to see how passive ASU is in this issue. The University benefited from “Safe and Sober” but did not participate. ASU goes along with the idea that women are, on some level, at fault for their own assault, through its use of language in the Code of Conduct. ASU does not take a strong enough side in condemning this issue, and victims of sexual assault deserve better.

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