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USC Rape: Sexual Assault On Campus Isn't Just a Crime — It's a Culture

After working at my school’s sexual violence prevention program for the past year, I have learned much about the rape culture on college campuses. There are a few key points I want to address in response to the recent complaints against Swarthmore College, Dartmouth College, USC, and UC-Berkeley.

1. Rising rates of rape and sexual assault do not mean more rapes and sexual assaults.

When a college or university starts reporting more sexual violence on campus, people panic and think there are suddenly more rapists and perpetrators. It's estimated that 54% of sexual assaults go unreported. When a school starts seeing more reporting, it is often the case that students feel safer to report the incident. Sexual violence has been a part of colleges and universities for a very long time. We should not be shocked that there are more reports now. We should be shocked by how little was reported in the past.

2. "While the university remains committed to addressing student concerns and protecting the rights of all students, the university's disciplinary process cannot and does not take the place of the judicial system."

This statement by USC’s administrators is valid. However, the problem lies with the difficulty of formally prosecuting rapists in the judicial system. As one district attorney put it, “It is extremely difficult to prosecute a rape case." There often are not any witnesses when the crime occurs. Coupled with the fact that most victims are taken advantage of when intoxicated, prosecutors often find it difficult to convict a rapist. Only about 7% of reported rapes resulted in convictions during 2011-2012, and only about 2%-8% of accusations are false reports. Prosecutors are aware of the low chances of successfully convicting a rapist and thus often choose not to pick up rape cases. Unfortunately not all rapists are stupid enough to photograph themselves with the victim.

3. Sexual violence can affect anyone.

The general discourse when talking about sexual violence, both on and off college campuses, is that women are victims and men are perpetrators. Although evidence suggests that there are gender disparities among victims and perpetrators, we must not forget that anyone can be a victim and anyone can be a perpetrator.

Even though these schools are dealing with sexual assaults on their campuses, we must not forget that this is a global issue that needs to be talked about and addressed effectively. You can learn more about rape culture through awareness videos on Project Unspoken’s YouTube channel.

For more social justice related news, follow me on Twitter @CalebPeng

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