Last Tuesday, POWER hosted Kalamazoo College’s annual Take Back the Night, an event against sexual assault and rape culture.
While the event was emotionally powerful, it also serves as a reminder: there is a crisis on college campuses across America. Students, particularly women, are being sexually assaulted while at college, but universities around the nation are turning a blind eye to it.
The conversation about sexual assault doesn’t end at Take Back the Night. It’s a constant conversation for survivors, and a constant struggle to seek justice from institutions that are supposed to protect them.
One year ago, the Obama administration released a federal list of 55 American colleges and universities with “open sexual violence investigations.” The list includes elite private colleges to large public universities to small regional schools.
The list from the Education Department continued Obama’s push to shed light on sexual assault, especially regarding how prominent colleges have handled rape allegations and related issues. Many prestigious universities made the list.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, nearly 20 to 25 percent of women will either be raped or experience a rape attempt. Among these women, 9 out of 10 knew their offender.
It is estimated that for every 1,000 women attending a college or university, there are 35 incidents of sexual assault each academic year. But where can these women go to receive justice for the crimes perpetrated against them?
Survivors of sexual assault in college are not being protected by their universities: instead, many universities are only trying to protect their own reputation.
Instead of working with victims to get perpetrators off campus, many college administrators instead encourage students to not talk about their experiences. Students are told not to go to the police or to the media, lest they make the assault claim a public issue. Instead of expelling rape perpetrators, many are let off with slaps on the wrist and allowed to return to campus.
It’s obvious that one night of awareness isn’t enough.
While Take Back the Night is a powerful and extremely important event, the discourse around sexual assault on college campuses cannot be limited to one night of marches and speeches. Indeed, the conversation needs to be constant.
Students and administrators need to reexamine their own role in working against sexual assault, so that Take Back the Night can be transformed into Take Back the Campus.