Most colleges tell their incoming students, “Look to the left, look to the right. One of you won’t be here by the end of the year.” What they should be telling them is that 1 in 4 of the young women in the room is likely to be sexually assaulted on campus.
After financial concerns, sexual assault is the number one reason women drop out of college, and the resulting trauma stays with them for decades. Colleges and universities are required to have policies in place to protect students and handle rape and sexual assault allegations, but few of them actually implement those policies as intended. There is a culture of silence on campuses that leaves many victims afraid to report the crimes committed against them.
This culture of silence goes beyond college campuses. It’s a reflection of the culture of our society at large and how women are perceived and valued. And when brave women do report their assaults, too often law enforcement officials question them as though they invited the attack. Still in 2016.
Men are given the benefit of the doubt. After all, “boys will be boys.” Right?
Wrong. As a woman and the mother of a daughter, I am angered by the way young women are treated after reporting sexual attacks. There is no worse feeling than the shame of rape except the shame of not having that rape taken seriously.
That’s why we at the Black Women’s Health Imperative are preparing to launch an aggressive campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault on campus and arm women with the tools they need to protect themselves. We are our sisters’ keeper. And if we don’t help ourselves, who will?