Sexual assault on campus is everyone’s problem

Trent M. Kays

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights periodically releases a list of colleges and universities under investigation for violations over the handling of sexual violence claims. These investigations span the entire country’s state and private schools. This offers a problematic view of education in the United States. There are numerous violations of the handling of sexual violence claims, ranging from prolific institutions like Harvard Law School to small, local schools and districts.
 
What’s most telling about the schools under investigation is that they transcend class strata. It doesn’t matter whether you attend a school serving a primarily affluent population or one serving the working class. It’s likely that you’ve heard of a school under investigation. 
 
It should go without saying that this is a huge problem. But in many ways, we need to repeat this as often as possible. If everyone took this problem seriously, we may not have had this list. In addition, I’m sure the number of schools currently on the list is a conservative number when it comes to the number of schools actually in need of investigation.
 
The most popular news stories I read bemoan the fact that universities and colleges continually fail to report or seriously address sexual violence on their campuses. These spaces are meant to be safe for the exploration of ideas, concepts and life. However, sexual violence continues to be a problem.
 
Our campuses should be locations where we interrogate the unfortunate existence of rape culture. However, there are still some people who believe rape culture doesn’t even exist. The only people who could possibly believe that rape culture isn’t real are those with little life experience or those blinded by their own privileged circumstance.
 
Rape culture exists, and it enables would-be attackers to “misinterpret” signals — as if forcing sex on a drunken person at a party is a signal misinterpretation. If a person cannot consent to sex, then the default mode should be to make sure they find their way home safely. That’s it.
 
Being drunk is not an invitation. Being stoned is not an invitation. Being flirtatious is not an invitation. You know what is an invitation? When a person verbally invites you to have sex. Consent is the only invitation. Period.