It’s time to have a serious talk about campus rape and sexual assault. That is the message behind Culture of Consent, a student organization launched at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.
A significant part of the message consists of students holding posters that briefly touch upon aspects of their sexual assault. As an example, one female college student holds a poster reading:
“Being drunk isn’t an excuse to be a slut.”
– Someone who stood by and watched me get raped. I was almost unconscious and trying to make him stop.
The message of another read:
What do you mean, “No”? How do you know you won’t like it if you’ve never been with a guy? You’re not actually a lesbian, and I’m going to prove it.
– A close friend right before sexually assaulting me.
In some of the photographs women can be seen while holding their posters (and thus personally identifiable); in other cases the women are holding the posters in front of their faces to preserve their anonymity.
Men Can Get Sexually Assaulted as Well
The posters are not confined solely to detailing the experiences of women. Two of the posters were from men, one of whom wrote about how he was sexually assaulted by a female friend and didn’t know that she has sex with him until she bragged about it to others.
While undoubtedly men are sexually assaulted at a significantly lower rate than women; nonetheless it does occur. It’s also important to understand that the sexual assailant does not need to be the opposite sex of the victim; same-gender sexual assaults also occur.
A Common Theme from the Posters
None of the comments displayed on the posters mentioned stranger rape or sexual assault, such as might be the case if a victim was assaulted while walking home by a perpetrator jumping out from behind the corner of a building. Instead, the assaults were all caused by “ordinary” people on campus. The good friend. The first-time date. The friendly person in the next-door dorm. Possibly even a professor.
Alarmingly, there are students who will see opportunities and take matters too far. They will ignore “no.” They will use violence or even sheer strength to overpower their victim. They may even ignore a situation in which the other person is very drunk or even unconscious, and thus incapable of providing consent.
This culture must stop.
We believe that all colleges and universities should have mandatory education of all students at the beginning of their freshman year regarding what constitutes rape and sexual assault. There should be no question as to what type of conduct is wrong.
We applaud the efforts of the students in the Culture of Consent project, as well as groups across the country that are fighting to stop sexual assault and rape on college campuses.