It is quite impossible to avoid the statistic. Many can identify with what this statistic represents based on its overwhelming use in all sexual assault campaigns: one in every five women will be sexually assaulted while attending college. 20 percent is a large portion of the female population to experience such a tragedy.
But the statistic doesn’t end there; one in every sixteen men will be assaulted. 90 percent of victims will not report the assault. 63.3 percent of university men who reported committing rape admitted to committing or attempting multiple rapes. These statistics are easy to find, and yet very few people are talking about them.
I suspect that someone will negate. “We heard those statistics during orientation! We all learned about consent!” However, a refresher course is needed by an alarming number of students on campus. I am not here to lecture; instead, I am here to open up a discussion. I want sexual assault and rape to be something openly discussed on our campus. I want rape culture to be understood for how it exists at Duke. I want people to realize how easy consent is to understand, and how it is both legally required and sexy. I want the groups on campus that work so hard to prevent sexual assault to have a voice distributed to the student population. I want students with questions or arguments to be able to engage in this discussion.
Consent is not an end goal, but instead it is something one should innately care about out of respect for the other person. And even if one doesn’t care about the other person, consent is in one’s own best interest as to avoid any legal repercussions. Consent is an inherent part of sex that cannot be removed from the activity. There is no such thing as “non-consensual sex”; there is sex and there is rape. Consent can be easily determined by asking a simple question, with no forced coercion involved. It is the duty of the person initiating the sexual activity to obtain consent. It is the duty of everyone to listen to the partner. And it is the duty of everyone to intervene as a bystander.
The Duke Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response features sixteen organizations on campus that work in different ways to change sexual violence on campus and to support survivors. These organizations work tirelessly to challenge the hazardous rape culture at Duke. College Factual gives Duke’s campus a safety rating of a D+ attributed mainly to burglary with sexual assault receiving only 9.6 percent of the blame. However sexual assault is devastatingly underreported. The city of Durham received a safety rating of F+ attributed to aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder.
Although Duke’s sexual assaults are often isolated from the rest of Durham crime, everyone on campus on Dec. 1, 2016 will remember receiving the Duke Alert that a student was sexually assaulted in the woods near Swift Ave. by a Durham man wielding a knife. This is the only kind of sexual assault that qualifies a Duke Alert, and consequently is the only time in which many Duke students think of sexual assault. However, I will remind you that 90 percent of sexual assaults will go unreported.
The process of reporting a sexual assault is miserable, and this is the reason for which many students refuse to report. With a total undergraduate population of 6,639, 3,308 of those being female, it is estimated by the one-in-five statistic that about 661 female students will be sexually assaulted while studying at Duke. Including the statistic that one in every sixteen men will be sexually assaulted, 207 students can be added to our total (3,318 total males). This means that approximately 868 students will be sexually assaulted.
If you have yet to be moved by this statistic, I urge you to look into the Breaking Out Campaign. This campaign, that has now gone viral, started out with Duke students wanting to anonymously or not share personal stories of their sexual assaults. The campaign has now reached over 37,000 likes and receives submissions from outside the university, even from different countries.
I am writing this column with the intent to incite a conversation, instead of simply lecturing. Throughout this semester, I will reach out to various organizations on campus, both who are fighting to prevent sexual assault and those being blamed at the heart of the problem. I also urge anyone with questions or stories that wants to add to the conversation to reach out to me.
During the 2015-2016 school year, Duke University’s Office of Institutional Equity received 124 reports of sexual misconduct, while the Women’s Center Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Intervention assisted an even greater number of 185 students. Despite all of these reports, only sixteen resulted in student conduct hearings. The only way to improve the safety of students on campus, and to increase the number of sexual misconduct reports that result in action, the culture on our campus needs to change. As students, we have the power to make this change.
Delaney Dryfoos is a Trinity sophomore. Her column, “let’s talk sex,” runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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