Saturday, April 4, 2020

Sexual assaults more common earlier in semester; know how to stay safe

Welcome to MSU.

According to a 2000 study by the U.S. Department of Justice titled "The Sexual Victimization of College Women," nearly 5 percent of college women are victims of sexual violence each year. Many of these assaults happen in the first weeks of school.

To the MSU community as a whole, I have a challenge for you: Prove me wrong.

Statistics show that rape is especially common on university campuses, particularly in the first days of the school year. As I said before, one newspaper column is not going to change that - but those of you reading it can.

Consent is one of the keys to understanding and ending rape. Here are a few quick pointers:

· According to state law, someone who is mentally incapacitated, whether by alcohol or other drugs, cannot consent to sexual activity. If someone you know is planning to get a girl (or guy) drunk so he (or she) can "get laid," that puts you in a powerful position. You have the power to stop a potential rape.

· Unconsciousness is not consent. This seems like a no-brainer, but as a rape counselor, I've worked with many women who crashed at a party and woke up to discover they were being raped.

· A history or reputation for being sexually active does not imply consent. Defense attorneys at a recent rape trial in California tried to show that their clients were innocent because the alleged victim was "a slut." Does being sexually active make rape OK? Using that same logic, if I give money to charity, is it OK for you to rob me?

As you look around and see the way we treat one another, ask yourself, "Would this be OK if it was my sister? My girlfriend? My mother? My daughter?"

It is also important to realize we all have a role in ending rape. Rape is not just a women's issue. It's not about a handful of twisted, evil men. Perpetrators are male and female. So are victims. Rape is about everyone.

Research is finding that one of the most powerful tools to ending rape is bystander intervention. It's us, men and women alike, who take the time to speak up and confront the people around us.

We are the ones who can pull a friend aside to say, "Hey, I don't think she's interested." We are the ones who can challenge rape myths and sexist attitudes.

We are the ones who can prevent rape.

Rape happens. Especially on college campuses. Especially in these first days and weeks of school. It will happen again this year. In many cases, the perpetrators will be people who don't even realize their actions are rape, and so they will continue to do it. If previous years are any example, most of us will ignore the problem. Most of us will turn our backs and allow it to continue.

Go ahead, MSU. Prove me wrong.

Please.

Jim Hines is the male outreach coordinator at MSU Safe Place. He can be reached at jchines@sff.net.

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