Task Force-Shmask Force: How College Women can “Do a Great Deal More” to Avoid Sexual Assault

Sexual AssaultLast month President Obama announced the formation of the White House Task Force to protect students from sexual assault. Vice President Joe Biden was also quoted by The Hill at a task force, “listening session” saying. “we can do a great deal more” to fight college sexual assaults. While it is clear that sexual assault on college campuses has reached epidemic proportions, until young women are educated and empowered on how to make smart personal safety choices, all the sexual assault policies in the world aren’t going to help.

Let me be very clear, sexual assault is a crime, the perpetrator is a criminal and there is NO excuse for the behavior. However, the choices women make can greatly reduce the chance of becoming a victim of sexual assault.

Random acts of violence are just that, random. They also can be extremely rare, if you make smart choices. We have all heard the phrase, “knowledge is power”, but what exactly does that mean? In the case of crime prevention, it refers to the thousands of criminals the Department of Justice (DOJ) has interviewed over the years and the extremely insightful information the DOJ has gathered. Criminals look for the easiest target, that is a given. So, how do you protect yourself from being a target? By simply caring about your personal safety. One way is to make the conscious and dedicated decision to be responsible for your actions and have respect and integrity for yourself above all else.

In terms of safety on campuses, most colleges offer some sort of escort service at night for students going to and from the library or other parts of campus. There are also ‘Blue Light’ emergency phones located in various areas around campus. But, ultimately, a better safety choice harkens back to the phrase most students have heard since pre- school, “Always have a buddy”. An easy target for a rapist is a young woman walking alone at night, especially through parking garages, or desolate parts of campus. Traveling in groups is the smartest and safest way to get to and from your destination. Coordinating logistics with your roommates or study partners ahead of time makes things more organized, and eliminates the issue of someone being left to walk by themselves.

A bigger issue in terms of sexual assault on college campuses might lie at a deeper level. Maybe it is the socialization between young men and women, or lack there of. Date rape, drug induced rape, acquaintance rape and gang rape are most common. The underlying factor in many of the assaults is alcohol. But, the real question is, why has this behavior become epidemic among college kids?

Both President Obama and Vice President Biden have stated that men have a role to play in preventing sexual assault. While that is true, it is both men and women that need to play a part to prevent these attacks from happening.The safety tips at the end of this article are meant for college women, as they are the victims of this horrific crime. However, it is important to look at the dynamic between young men and women today and the influences that may play a part in the increase of inappropriate sexual behavior, assault and rape.

Popular TV Shows over the past few years have possibly molded and shaped the mindset of young adults today. I am not trying to sound like some Pollyanna on her soapbox, but common sense tells us that media plays a large part in influencing society’s beliefs and behaviors. From reality shows like MTV’s Jersey Shore and The Real Life to Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules and Real Housewives, apparently being a vicious, slutty and sloppy drunk is IN! Young women are fed this message on a continual basis. Many have become oblivious to the ramifications of what that behavior brings in real life. Are young women conditioned to think that it is acceptable to treat their friends and fellow women disrespectfully? That their relationships should be filled with drama and back biting behavior? That their appearance should revolve around looking sexy or provocative at all times? That their social life should consist of over drinking and putting themselves in sexual or volatile situations? More young women could benefit from being exposed to the importance of having each other’s back, to value and cultivate friendships and help protect each other from potential predators. While it is extremely important for women to express themselves through their own style, personality and individuality, it is also vital that they have respect for themselves and other women.

Could the possible lack of appropriate socialization between young men and women also stem from the fact that they communicate through text or social media more than they do face to face? Maybe they do not possess adequate interpersonal skills and are unable to communicate their feelings or more importantly, boundaries clearly and effectively. This takes the “Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus” concept to a whole new level!

The top songs on ITunes glorify strippers, encourages young women to slide down poles and blow “whistles”. Heck, who knew it would become popular to dress in tiny mini dresses and teeter on 6 inch high platform stiletto’s all while mastering the art of twerking against a guys crotch? Young adults are constantly fed sexual content on a daily basis. I don’t blame young women for being confused as to how to deal with sexual situations. Pop Culture encourages them to dress and behave like hookers, drink to excess, and treat each other like enemies. Often times young women find themselves in uncomfortable sexual settings before they know it. They find out that simply saying “NO”, does not make the predator stop. This is why it is important for women to make SMART choices before they find themselves in these situations, because by then, it is too late.

I am no sociologist or psychologist, and am not sure that any of this can be traced to the increase in sexual assault on college campuses. What I am, is a crime prevention specialist and what I do know is how to decrease the odds of becoming a victim of sexual assault. I hope Obama’s task force and Biden’s listening sessions will help combat the large number of sexual assaults on college campuses. I hope that the new policies they are trying to create will help in the apprehension and conviction of sexual predators. But in the meantime, college women need to be armed with knowledge, because knowledge is power.

Here are 10 Simple Safety Tips to help avoid Sexual Assault:
#1. ALWAYS HAVE A BUDDY (the more the merrier to and from your destination)
#2. NEVER LEAVE A BUDDY BEHIND. (even if you have to throw them over your shoulder kicking and screaming, they will thank you in the morning)
#3 ALWAYS HAVE A DESIGNATED DRIVER. (this can never be said enough)
#4 BRING YOUR OWN DRINKS TO THE PARTY IF POSSIBLE.
#5 DECIDE WITH YOUR BUDDIES HOW MUCH YOU ARE GOING TO DRINK BEFORE YOU GO TO THE PARTY. Write on the inside of your hand with a Sharpie, then have the designated driver cross off the drinks on your hand as you go, (example: 3 Beers or Two Mixed Drinks, etc.) that way everyone keeps track and avoids over drinking.
#6 DO NOT TAKE A DRINK FROM SOMEONE YOU DON’T KNOW AND DO NOT TAKE A DRINK THAT YOU DID NOT SEE BEING POURED. (even from someone you DO know).
#7 WHEN IN DOUBT, POUR IT OUT. Always have your drink in your hand to avoid someone drugging your drink. If you put it down by accident or forget to keep and eye on it, pour it out. Better safe than sorry.
#8 DO NOT LEAVE A PARTY/SOCIAL SITUATION WITH SOMEONE YOU JUST MET, OR EVEN AN ACQUAINTANCE. Remember: Leave with the buddies you came with. You can always meet the cute guy for coffee or lunch the next day and get to know him better.
#9 AVOID POTENTIALLY UNCOMFORTABLE SEXUAL SITUATIONS. If you are out with a guy whether your boyfriend or study buddy, and you DO NOT want to have sex , DO NOT go back to your/his Dorm, Apt, etc. ESPECIALLY if you have been drinking.
#10. DO NOT RELY ON THE WORD “NO”. As I have stated again, and again, Sexual Assault is a crime, but the best way to protect yourself is to avoid putting yourself in an uncomfortable/dangerous sexual setting in the first place.