Rape education is vital

By Alicia Williams

Having a man hold the door open for a woman so she can walk in before him is somewhat rare these days. Yes, I’ve heard chivalry is dead and that today’s women are strong and independent and don’t need a man to do something they can easily do for themselves. I see the truthfulness of this every day on campus. People rush from building to building with the goal of reaching the door before the next person so they’re not late to class.

It’s not that men are exhibiting their strength by opening and holding a door for a woman; they are expressing respect, a deeper understanding and consideration they have for the opposite sex. Hopefully it’s just one of the many lessons on manners taught to them by their parents from a young age.

Yet respect for women extends far beyond holding a door or giving up a seat8212;it affects how men think and feel about women, sex and relationships. It’s about men’s ability to evaluate the respect they have for their mothers and sisters and to then apply that same level of respect to every other woman they come in contact with.

Astoundingly, statistics show a dreadful consequence of men not being taught these life lessons. The 1998 National Institute of Justice’s survey on prevention, prevalence, incidence and consequences of violence against women reports that 17.7 million American women have been victims of rape or attempted rape.

That is about one of every six women.

One in four female students attending universities and colleges in the United States are victims of sexual assault. The 1997 Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National College Women Sexual Victimization study of 4,446 women attending colleges across the United States found that for every 1,000 women attending an institution, up to 35 rapes are occurring per academic year. So, if on average a college has 10,000 female students, 350 of them will be a victim of rape in one year.

Unbeknownst to most of us at the U, April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It seems that along with the budget-cutting of the Rape Aggression Defense program last year, the U has eliminated just about all sexual assault awareness projects on campus. The U’s Women’s Resource Center, Public Safety and the Student Health Services didn’t chose to address this prevalent issue even during a month dedicated to it.

Statistically speaking, the U campus is safe for women, with only five sexual assaults reported to the U Police Department between 2005 and 2007. But if we look a bit further to the immediately surrounding areas of campus into Salt Lake City, there were 191 sexual assaults reported in 2008. The Bureau of Criminal Identification Department of Public Safety report, 2007 Crime in Utah, states that 923 rapes were reported in Utah during 2007. They estimate one rape occurs in Utah every 9.49 hours and 2.53 rapes occur daily.

And these are just reported cases.

Not all Utah campuses missed the opportunity to educate on rape awareness. Utah State University chose to sponsor its annual fundraiser on April 8. Walk-a-Mile-in-Her-Shoes was an opportunity for men on campus and in the community to march in high heels to help stop sexual assaults. This year’s event had a record 164 male walkers, 50 of which were players from the USU football team, and more than 20 “blister sisters”8212;the female participants.

All the funds collected from the event were donated to USU’s Sexual Assault Anti-Violence Intervention group and more importantly, to the One-in-Four Chapter, which is an all male, peer-education group that focuses on teaching men about sexual assault. In a March 28, 2005, news release, Rachel Brightman, USU’s SAAVI coordinator, said the event sent a powerful message by inviting men to participate in ending sexual violence.

“When men publicly stand up and show their commitment, their actions encourage other men to start thinking about how they personally can do their part to end violence,” Brightman said.

Unfortunately, most rape prevention education concentrates on women and their ability to avoid being sexually assaulted, but rape is not just a woman’s issue. Men might need to be taught from a young age by their parents the polite manners of how to treat and respect a lady, but their progressed education should also include specific details of what rape is, why it happens and what they can do to prevent it. It’s too bad the U doesn’t see the need to step it up and at least participate in the education of its students during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

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Alicia Williams