This past Friday, I marched against the “Red Zone” with some incredible people. The Red Zone is the first six weeks of the fall semester, the period during which sexual assaults are most common on college campuses. The march/protest was organized by Kutztown’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, or FMLA. Being a part of that moment and being able to shout declarations like “We support survivors!” or “Yes means yes and no means no!” around the south side of Kutztown’s campus was such a surreal experience. On top of that, it was incredibly, and unfortunately, poignant. The vast majority of sexual assaults that happen on any college campus happen in the dorms. These familiar places that are meant to feel like our second home are often the places where people live their worst nightmares.
Since the explosion of the #MeToo movement, survivors of sexual assault have gained a new, collective voice. But college campuses in particular have an incredibly longstanding problem when it comes to how prevalent these kinds of abuses are. Earlier last week, two of my friends and I went to a viewing of the documentary filmThe Hunting Ground, which was hosted by the Student Campaign Against Rape (SCAR). Prior to seeing the film, I had known that sexual assault was a huge problem on college campuses—the relatively regular emails we get here at Kutztown informing us of them, combined with the well-known statistic that most sexual assaults are never reported, made that evident enough. But seeing and hearing individual stories of women and men who have suffered not only at the hands of their abusers, but also at the hands of the universities who claim to support them, was a truly enraging and enlightening experience.
At every one of the universities depicted in the documentary, expulsions (not indictments) for rape or sexual assault ranged from zero to anywhere in the single digits. That was compared to hundreds of reports—which itself implies that there were likely hundreds more undocumented or unreported assaults. Yet, when compared to statistics for expulsions over cheating, some of these same universities had statistics well into the hundreds. What’s the moral of this depressing statistic? University and college administrators do not take victims and survivors of sexual assault seriously because it is in their best financial interest not to. No school wants it known that there is a sexual assault problem on campus. No school wants to be the first to step up and say, “enough is enough.” And thus, the problem continues.
What is important, though, is that there are ways to fight back. There are ways to give voices to the silenced. Two incredible women depicted in The Hunting Ground founded an organization known as End Rape On Campus (EROC). According to their mission statement, EROC “works to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors and their communities; prevention through education; and policy reform at the campus, local, state, and federal levels.” Organizations like EROC are some of the most effective combatants against rampant sexual assault on college campuses. Furthermore, it is also important for allies of survivors to use their own privilege and power to stand up and work together with survivors to fight sexual assault in any way that they can.
In the end, this is still a massive problem. Sexual assault permeates every major institution in this country, ranging from education, the entertainment industry, and even as far as the highest positions of the U.S. government. President Donald Trump, his nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, and numerous other influential political figures like Al Franken and Roy Moore are just some of the many examples that can be cited. Yet, despite how gargantuan a challenge it will be to fully eradicate sexual assault, resistance in even its smallest forms gives hope to survivors. Marches, like the FMLA’s anti-Red Zone protest last Friday, and starting organizations like EROC are both powerful ways of resisting the toxicity of rape culture and empowering the victims of sexual assault by standing up and declaring in their names that enough is enough.