College campuses are among of the most dangerous places in America for women. According to the 2014 White House Council on Women and Girls, one out of five college women are sexually assaulted and nearly one out of 10 college men are rapists.
Studies indicate that 33 percent of rapists committed their first offense as juveniles and that one in five girls are raped while in high school. Only half of these attacks are ever reported.
The issue begins at an even earlier age.
In fact, 50 percent of women who are victims of rape were also sexually abused as children. Furthermore, 65 percent of one-time rapists and 85 percent of serial rapists were sexually abused as kids.
Many students arrive on campus with an incorrect and harmful distinction of right and wrong regarding sexual behaviors and attitudes. Sex-related behavior as a means for exerting power and control is common in high schools where it shows up in incidents of hazing and harassment. In middle school it is prevalent in incidents of bullying and groping. In elementary school it is seen in incidents of teasing and when kids act out in a sexual way that is inappropriate for their age.
This lifetime exposure to undeterred sexual bullying and violence results in tolerance and minimization.
The White House report recommends that colleges address six areas for improvement. Five of these areas focus on enforcement of laws that are already in place. The sixth recommendation is to engage men as advocates for prevention.
In addition to following the report’s recommendations, college campuses can do more by addressing issues related to child sexual abuse. The victimization of children at Penn State is an example of how poorly equipped most colleges are in protecting children who visit their campus.
College students interact with children ages 5-18 throughout their collegiate life. By adopting training and protocols on adult, child, and youth interactions, colleges can both protect children and protect their faculty and institutions.
Not only would these policies and practices decrease the likelihood of abuse of children on campus, they can be an effective way to empower the student body to address the issues that lead to their own victimization. The skills students learn to protect children from being abused are skills that can generalize into protecting themselves and others as young adults in college.
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