Recent sexual assaults at Sonoma State University raise questions

Columnist Sean Curzon.

Columnist Sean Curzon.

Recently I opened my Sonoma State University email, as I regularly do during mornings, to see if I received any emails from teachers or any important news. I saw an email titled “Timely Warning Notice- Sexual Assault.” I shook my head and went on with my day, but the more I thought about it, the more upset I was.

I transferred here last semester, and since then I’ve received a total of three of these emails. If you are expecting another dig at the lack of lighting at night, think again. All three of these emails read the sexual assault “occurred in an on-campus residence” and “the female victim was acquainted with the suspect.” These weren’t sinister figures hiding in the shadows, but friends and neighbors. This is far more terrifying.

According to a study conducted by the Association of American Studies, 9.8 percent of students in a partnered relationship reported experiencing intimate partner violence. Not to say the stranger hiding in the dark doesn’t happen, but sexual assault is far more complex and dangerous than most students think.

The AAS survey states “The incidence of sexual assault and sexual misconduct due to physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation among female undergraduate student respondents was 23.1 percent.”

According to the emails, an alleged sexual battery and false imprisonment happened on Sept. 27, 2015 and was reported on Oct. 5, 2015. The next one, an alleged sexual assault, happened on Nov. 11, 2015 and was reported Nov. 13, 2015. The latest, another alleged sexual assault, happened on March 16 and reported the next day.

 

A major factor of this is how our culture frames sexual activity. Sex for man is treated like a challenge, a goal to reach. Movies don’t help. Many Hollywood movies depict college as a place for parties and sex. Classic comedies feature the “heroic” main characters committing horrible acts of sexual assault. In “Revenge of the Nerds” (1984) one of the nerds wears a mask and has sex with a girl pretending to be her boyfriend. This is framed as a heroic action. I’m not joking.

Another famous college comedy “Animal House” (1978) features one of the protagonist peeking in on women changing clothing and the main character is treated as a hero for barely resisting raping an unconscious girl. What the hell Hollywood?

Students are now all required to take “Think About It,” an online sexual assault training course. While I was taking the course I thought two things: Whyare we taking this thing online? Wouldn’t the message sink in better if we were hearing someone talk in person as opposed to watching a poor CGI character with a flat voice actor or reading a wall of text with links to more walls of texts?

Why are we just learning about this now? Why isn’t this kind of thing taught in high school? This would be far more effective iftaught to high school students when their minds are still developing. Rape and sexual assault isn’t only a college problem.

Back in 2012, two high school students in Steubenville, Ohio raped an unconscious girl at a party. They said they didn’t think it was rape since she didn’t say no. This shows how fundamentally flawed sex education is when it comes to rape. We have a tendency to move the blame to the victim in rape cases.

We need to teach everyone the nature of rape and consent as well as the dangers of sexual aggression.