Guest Post by: Kristopher Kole Wyckhuys, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN
When sifting through the news, these headlines have become all too common.
- Florida State University freshman reports rape
- Central Michigan University freshman arrested for criminal sexual conduct
- Michigan State University sophomore dismissed after raping incapacitated woman
- Feds investigate University of Michigan’s handling of rape allegations
Statistical evaluation reveals that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 33 men experience attempted or actual rape throughout lifetime and a staggering 1 in 3 women over the course of her college career. Since fewer than 5% of assaults are reported, these statistics simply don’t reflect the astounding reality. Nearly 25% of women who reported rape were under the age of 25 when assaulted, 85% of the victims know their attacker, while nearly 99% of people convicted are men.
Universities have an ethical and legal responsibility to provide safe educational environments and confronting sexual violence must be part of that. Campuses should not only be responsible for working to prevent these incidents, but in the event an assault occurs the administration needs to investigate and work to ensure justice is sought. As seen by the headlines above, there are a good number of campuses not responding well or even at all to assaults. So how do you create a culture of consent?
Sexual assault prevention involves interventions at various levels. We can stop crimes before they are committed in while reducing the damaging consequences after the fact and while also holding offenders accountable. The implementation of prevention strategies often hinges on understanding that if we can inspire women and men to work collaboratively – we can shift the paradigm that supports sexual violence. We can educate students about ethical consent while teaching bystander strategies to safely confront potentially violent situations, while also transforming culture. Jackson Katz, a frontrunner in the effort of engaging men in ending violence said it well in this TED talk.
The prevalence of assaults within sports culture reflects a critical need for every institution to mandate sexual violence training for all student athletes. We’re not suggesting single session sensitivity trainings; however, we’re advocating for multi-session trainings founded in empirically researched strategies demonstrating long-term culture change and accountability.
That this is not standard practice within every athletic department reflects a profound failure on the part of leadership within higher education institutions.
In a recent report, The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAAIN) issued a statement denouncing the feminist theoretical concept that we live within what’s defined as Rape Culture. They concede that it’s helpful to recognize systemic barriers, while not losing sight that rape is not the result of cultural implications, but is the result of deliberate choices of a small number of rapists, to rape.
Rape is absolutely a choice that one individual makes in order to gain power and control over another individual. This choice is influenced by culture and is hidden in plain sight by a society that allows rapists to exploit cultural narratives and escape accountability. Holding rapists accountable necessitates uncovering the campus climate through which they’re able to conceal themselves. This climate allows for personal beliefs that they’re not rapists at all. Accountability requires pulling back the curtain and uncovering common rape myths, flipping the script on victim blaming, and engaging in a cultural shift that calls for universal unified understandings of a very specific definition of consent. This is an ethical consent that is conversational, engaging, participatory, sober, and only yes means yes.
To effectively prevent rape on campuses, and alter the attitudes and behaviors that lead rapists to believe they can get away with rape, we must also drastically alter the environment within which they live and thrive.
At HAVEN we seek to develop partnerships with institutions to implement best practices in prevention solutions. Prevention work includes education for students, professors and administration at levels of engagement ranging from awareness-raising, to comprehensive education, to building healthy relationship skills and ends in legislation and policy design. We create programs adequately addressing these levels of engagement while also addressing underlying causes. We encourage institutions to partner with local domestic violence agencies to bring together components of expertise while designing comprehensive prevention strategies that produces a paradigm shift that never accepts or tolerates sexual violence, ever.
Kristopher Kole Wyckhuys is a respectful and optimistic voice within an intersectional social justice movement. As a Prevention Education Specialist at HAVEN, he focuses on redefining healthy masculinity and works to engage men in ending gender-based violence.