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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.

Women are three times more likely to experience sexual assault in college.

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.

The text alert every student at Ole Miss received on March 25, 2017.

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!

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Alex Feal

Alex is a student at the University of Edinburgh currently studying abroad at the University of Mississippi. Originally from Spain, Alex found the cold weather of London and Edinburgh too much to handle so escaped to the American South to get back to sunning himself by the pool. A travel aficionado and complete coffee addict, Alex hopes to get into teaching history at international schools when he's older, using their exotic locations and long holidays as bases from which to further explore the world. Often found with a camera in-hand, you can follow him on his travels on instagram as well as on his blog lattewanderer.blogspot.com.


7 comments

  1. It’s good to read this kind of article, sometimes it can feel like sexual assault/attacks are brushed aside and more often than not treated like something a person should just ‘deal with’. Of course this view is wrong and I’m glad this article highlights that kind of attitude. Great piece, Alex!

  2. There’s a great documentary about this on Netflix named ‘The Hunting Ground’. Everyone deserves the right to feel safe on campus. Such a brilliant article, Alex – a shame it has to be written but it’s so important that people are aware of the extent of this problem.

    1. Thank you! Oh cool I will have to check it out! I was in shock as to just how bad it was here and the extent to which the campus police were overlooking some issues.

  3. I am from America and although I go to an all girls school, incidents have been happening recently on campus. Men have been slipping drugs into drinks at bars to take advantage of girls. Also, if you are studying abroad in the states I would recommend avoiding frat parties at all costs. Most of the assaults that have happened were due to drugs or alcohol being used to make the victim unconscious. Be wary!

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