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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, January 23, 2015

This week we have an editorial revealing that American universities are not the only ones with a sexual assault problem, and two new and potentially innovative tactics for addressing the issue in this country.

Britain Has a Problem with College Sexual Assault Too

If you thought campus sexual assault was a uniquely American problem, this editorial from British professor Nicole Westmarland makes it brutally clear that college campuses across the pond have just as much if not more of a problem with sexual violence. In fact, Professor Westmarland cites statistics even more shocking and perturbing than the ones familiar to us from American studies. According to a poll conducted by The Telegraph, 1 in 3 British female college students experience sexual assault. 97% of sexual assault victims do not report their assault to the university, and 44% said they did not report their assault because they believed the university would do nothing about the violence. Westmarland points to these statistics as an indictment of a higher education culture that she believes would prefer to sweep these problems under the rug rather than discuss and address them. Perhaps encouragingly (at least for Americans) she points to current efforts being taken to address sexual violence on this side of the Atlantic as a model for British universities looking to fight back against campus rape.

Could Sorority Ragers Help Fight Sexual Assault?

Alcohol-fueled fraternity parties have been the setting for numerous high-profile sexual assault cases. Alcohol-fueled sorority parties have not, probably because, by and large, such events do not exist. Now, some female students are wondering whether they should, suggesting not only that a party hosted by a sorority might not pose the same risks as one hosted by a fraternity, but that such events could decrease the overall danger of sexual assault on campus. The theory goes that drinking in a setting where women are in control—of who can and cannot be in their house, of the flow of alcohol, and of their own ability to go upstairs and lock the door at any time—would reverse a power dynamic that at fraternities contributes to the prevalence of sexual assault. Critics of this logic point out that sororities rarely host parties for good reasons, which include the cost of insurance and potential damage to property that generally belongs to a national organization. Furthermore, they suggest that providing yet another venue for excessive drinking may be exactly the wrong strategy for combating a problem closely linked to excessive alcohol consumption.

How Can Taxes and Marijuana Fight Sexual Assault?

Curbing excessive drinking is the heart of the tactic suggested by this piece from New York Magazine. However, author Annie Lowrey suggests a novel tool in the seemingly age-old (and often futile) efforts by schools and government to cut down on students’ drinking: taxation. According to Lawrey, “Study after study has shown that ‘higher prices or taxes were associated with a lower prevalence of youth drinking.’” She posits that increased taxation of alcohol, and especially of alcohol sold in close proximity to college campuses, will lead to decreased drinking and, as a result, a decrease in sexual assaults. The second, more controversial bonus suggestion? That legalizing marijuana could similarly decrease student drinking and thus assaults. According to Lowrey, “there is some evidence that young people tend to substitute pot for alcohol.” Drawing on evidence that cannabis use reduces the likelihood of violent behavior, while drinking increases it, Lowrey suggests that making marijuana more widely available could decrease the risk of assault on college campuses.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, November 14, 2014

Collective punishment for fraternities, the latest video by “It’s On Us,” and a timeline of sexual assault news from the last year.

Is Collective Punishment for Fraternities an Effective Prevention Technique?

In the wake of sexual assaults, fatal accidents, and other tragedies associated with fraternity parties, more and more colleges are turning to what some have deemed collective punishment: restricting or eliminating social events for all Greek organizations on campus, not just those associated with prior incidents. At Johns Hopkins all fraternity parties are banned until the end of the current semester, following a reported rape at Sigma Alpha Epsilon, despite the fact that neither the assailants nor the victim were associated with the fraternity. At Emory University all Greek social activities have been suspended following an assault at a fraternity house, and at MIT fraternity gatherings cannot exceed 49 people—the result of an accident in which a woman fell out of a fraternity window. Some commentators applaud such steps as common sense preventative measures while others have criticized such steps as unfair to fraternities and sororities that may be doing everything right and still be punished for a different group’s misdeeds or carelessness.

“It’s On Us” Promotes Bystander Intervention

Check out the latest spot from the White House’s “It’s On Us” anti-sexual assault campaign, which doubles-down on the theme of bystander intervention with a dramatization of a college-aged young man preventing sexual assault at a party. The video, narrated by Mad Men actor Jon Hamm, reflects current research suggesting bystander intervention may be a particularly promising prevention strategy. Other efforts will include partnerships with professional sports leagues, efforts to change the tone of victim-blaming conversations on the internet, and prizes for students who submit innovative strategies for bystander intervention.

A Timeline of Campus Sexual Assault

The past year has seen numerous developments in the fight against sexual assault on college campuses, including a White House campaign, new laws, and the latest count of 85 OCR investigations. This interactive infographic from Al-Jazeera America provides a timeline of the most relevant stories from the past year, serving as both useful summary and convenient resource.

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