Sexual Assault On Campus: The Darker Side Of US College Life
Studying abroad in America has its perks – it’s a completely new lifestyle with a college culture eerily similar to that portrayed in Hollywood (sorry not sorry).
But with a new lifestyle comes new risks.
At Ole Miss, as with many American universities, no risk is more prominent than that of sexual assault.
According to the logs made available by campus police, there have been 15 reported sexual assaults since I arrived here in August – the key word there being “reported”.
On top of this, one victim whispered that during her time at an all-girl dorm in her first year, there was at least one girl on every floor needing a shoulder to talk to at any one time.
However, it’s not only the frequency of which sexual harassment is happening at Ole Miss which I find concerning, but also the authoritative response to these incidents.
Victims who report sexual harassment to campus security are often left fielding questions such as, “What were you wearing when the harassment occurred?”
There’s also a lack of assertiveness on the police’s part in suggesting rape kits to students shaken by late night ordeals, in which they remember very little and suspect that they were drugged.
This general apathy to the problem has also spread to the way in which people committing these acts have been seen.
Two student victims I spoke to claim that the university took only a cursory interest in their cases to meet campus protocols.
Both times, the punishment of community service was assigned to the offender and the victim felt forced to transfer to other schools to feel safe and cared-about again.
As international students, we find we’re forced to rely on other people in the United States in a way that we never have to in Europe.
In Oxford, Mississippi alone, the public transport system fails to reach the social hub in town during the day, and simply does not exist after sunset.
This, coupled with an insufficient number of Uber drivers in the area and an extortionate taxi system, means that international students are at the mercy of locals when it comes to lifts into town.
While this is fine getting to the bars as people are generally still sober(ish), making your way back home is a lot trickier, with it being easy to be corralled into someone’s car.
It is tricky when you feel reliant on the locals, but there are some tips that Ole Miss victims have wanted to share for exchange students coming to the United States:
Tips from Ole Miss students on staying safe:
- Keep your phone charged and have at least one friend to contact in an emergency that isn’t drunk at the time.
- Keep an eye on your drinks. Spiking is more common than you think.
- Don’t get into a strangers’ car – use the buses provided by apartment complexes (such as the Hub) as often as possible
I am in no way suggesting that Ole Miss is alone in this – chants of “no means yes, yes means anal” at Yale in 2014 prove that this is a national issue.
However, I have yet to meet a student who has not been either a victim of sexual assault or knows someone who has been sexual assaulted while enrolled here.
On a campus, that can feel isolating for an exchange student.
It’s important to see sexual assault for what it is – an abhorrent crime that cannot and should not be simply swept under the rug.
The fact is that while the United States is a great place to study about, and that sexual assault can happen anywhere, ignoring the risk is foolhardy.
Do you have any other tips to help other students stay safe while studying abroad?
Comment them or get in touch over social media!