The Issue of Campus Sexual Assault and Title IX's Role in Fixing it

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When I made my commitment to Baylor I was overwhelmed by the amount of mocking and warning I received for committing to what my peers called ‘rape university’. These comments towards Baylor were in response to the Baylor football team rape scandal that took place in 2016. It was the first time I was ever made aware of sexual assault or rape on campuses and the role of Title IX and what actions were made in cases like that. I educated myself on the issue and scandal at Baylor, and despite the massive scandal and the mocking I received from my peers, and as well as believing that after the scandal serious changes had been made, I knew Baylor was the place for me. No less than a week here the student body received a statement that someone reported a case of sexual assault. This incident not only opened my eyes to the serious issue here, but it also caused me to ask some questions like: “What is being done to protect the students from sexual assault?', “What causes a sexual assault to occur so frequently on campus?”, 'What does Title IX do to support the victims?”. These questions have been on my mind since August 2018, but the questions became more persistent in my mind in January when students were informed that during the first semester five other cases of sexual assault had been filed. Unfortunately, the school waited around three months to inform the student body about the reports that had been made. Since Baylor decided to wait so long to inform the student body about the cases that had been filed, I began to question the universities actions and what they were truly doing to solve this problem.

The issue of sexual assault is very real and persistent at Baylor University, and the students have the right to feel safe at the university they are spending a fortune to attend and they have the right to have answers to questions of their safety. Baylor University is not the only school facing this epidemic, it is happening at universities around the country. Baylor has just happened to receive coverage of it due to the 2016 scandal. Which can be seen as a positive thing because it forces Baylor to adjust their system to decrease the amount of sexual assault on campus. But because it is happening everywhere, women face a scary statistic that one out of every five women will experience sexual assault while in college. This issue is so prevalent on Baylor’s campus and it does not seem to be decreasing despite their recent scandals and actions made my the university to inform students. I will evaluate the several different causes of sexual assault on campus and the training and protocols made by Title IX to fix this problem. I will also focus on three important factors of sexual assault that will help me grasp an understanding of what could cause it: alcohol use, male groups encouraging sexual assault, and different kinds sexual coercion.

Parties are an inevitable part of a college atmosphere, whether one chooses to go to the party or not they will continue to occur on college campuses. And with partying, alcohol is usually a factor. From my experience I know that alcohol causes people to lose touch with their morals and judgment, which can cause people to do things that they would not have done sober. Although that can be the case, in my opinion, alcohol is not an excuse for sexual assault, whether it be the perpetrator who was under the influence, the victim, or both, alcohol cannot be used as an excuse to why someone committed an act of sexual assault. Alcohol can influence sexual assault happening, but it is not the sole reason that it happened, the perpetrator made the decision to take advantage of the victim. There are two different studies that I will focus on that help me analyze the role of alcohol better, one evaluated the perpetrator and the role of alcohol and the other evaluated the victim and the role of alcohol. What I learned from my research is that alcohol can influence sexual aggression of perpetrators and that plus a party atmosphere can chaotic.

In a peer-reviewed research article written by Antover P. Tuliao and Dennis McChargue, they discovered from their study that: “This data adds to the growing evidence that alcohol primes sexually motivated intentions and increases the likelihood of risky sexual behavior, particularly sexual aggression” (Tuliao and Dennis, 325). Alcohol inherently plays a major role in causing a perpetrator to act sexually aggressive towards a victim. This can lead to sexual assault or even rape. So in a party atmosphere, when an offender is under the influence of alcohol they can be less aware of the morality of the situation and act out a desire without the consent of the other party. Alcohol does influence a person to do so, but I believe the underlying desire stems from how society views sex, men and women. Not all men or women commit acts of sexual assault, but the ones that do have very similar characteristics, that I will discuss later in this essay.

The second viewpoint is that of the victim and the role alcohol plays in putting the victim in that situation. The study that gave me most of this information almost blames the victims for putting themselves in that terrible situation by binge drinking or partying, rather than focusing on perpetrators alcohol use. The study, ‘A Prospective Study of Sexual Assault and Alcohol Use Among First-Year College Women’, was conducted by Emily R. Mouilso, Sarah Fischer, and Karen S. Calhoun. Their results concluded that “frequent binge drinking was a strong risk factor for sexual assault” (Mouilso, Fischer and Calhoun, 91). Their evidence suggests that the more a woman binge drinks the more likely she is to be sexually assaulted.

Although their results may be true, I believe that they are disregarding a major factor in this, the perpetrator's role. Their study helped back up one of my causes, that alcohol may play a role in sexual assault, but they did not properly evaluate the offender's place. I do not think forbidding men or women from drinking will solve the problem of sexual assault, I believe it stems deeper than the actions displayed by intoxicated people. In my opinion having prior knowledge of this fact can decrease the likelihood of someone putting themselves in an unsafe situation that could lead to sexual assault. Mouilso, Fischer, and Calhoun’s argument can be seen as a counter argument for sexual assault because they are putting the blame on the victim’s choice to put themselves in that situation rather than addressing the offender. Alcohol, for the offender, is just an excuse to receive something that they could have gotten using coercion or any other tactic. Again, in my opinion and from my personal experience, committing acts of sexual assault stems the person's view and respect of their victim, and their knowledge of punishment and morals. Alcohol is merely just an excuse and way for an offender to take easier advantage of a victim.

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The second cause of sexual assault is the influence of men in specifically male groups. An example of this would be yet another scandal that took place at Baylor. According to The Washington Post, Jacob Anderson, the former fraternity president of Phi Delta Theta was charged with four counts of sexual assault and raped an unconscious 19-year-old girl in 2016, he ended up taking a plea deal for $400 and had to register as a sex offender. Could that terrible incident have been avoided if Anderson was not in a strictly male organization? According to Schwartz and DeKeseredy, authors of ‘Male Peer-Support Theories of Sexual Assault’, the fact that he was in a male club, that influenced him to commit acts of rape. I am not stating that because Jacob Anderson was involved in a fraternity at Baylor, that is why he raped his victim, I am only suggesting that being apart of such a highly competitive and masculine group may have influenced his views of sex and women. In Schwartz and DeKeseredy article, they come to the conclusion that men who are in homosocial (all male) groups find other men with similar beliefs as them (ie. women are only useful for sex) and surround themselves with those similar beliefs men (Schwartz and DeKeseredy, 37). This can cause men to encourage others around to try and have sex with as many women as possible, thus making it a competition. They all tend to have the same outlook on women so they do not see the wrong in sexually assaulting someone, because they ultimately got what they desired out of the situation. Along with homosocial groups encouraging each other to procure as much sex as possible, Cortney A. Franklin, Leana Bouffard, and Travis C. Pratt also point out how men with low self-control who are in all-male groups are also more likely to commit acts of sexual assault (Franklin, Bouffard and Pratt, 1458). Men with low self-control are more likely to commit acts of crime (ie. sexual assault or rape) than men with normal self-control. This theory is self-explanatory if one has low self-control than they are less likely to stop a criminalistic action from possibly occurring. My example of low self-control is, for instance, a three-year-old with low self-control wants a candy bar but does not have the money for it, because he has low self-control he would just end up stealing it to satisfy his needs rather than move on from the desire. Maybe Jacob Anderson had low self-control and was encouraged by his fraternity brothers, maybe that was the reason he committed a very violent act of rape. Overall low self-control plus male peer support can greatly influence an act of sexual assault occurring.

Coercion plays a major factor in sexual assault and unfortunately, it is apart of the grey areas when it comes to the victim giving consent or not. My definition coercion in relation to sexual assault or rape is when a perpetrator persuades a victim to perform sexual acts while disregarding the victims' desires or consent. Coercion can subtly take place so frequently that the person experiencing it may not even realize what’s going on until afterward. This is an assumption stems from my personal experience. Without the education of sexual coercion, the victim may not fully understand what is going on. In the research essay, ‘Exploring Definitions and Prevalence of Verbal Sexual Coercion and Its Relationship to Consent to Unwanted Sex: Implications for Affirmative Consent Standards on College Campuses’ done by Brandie Pugh and Patricia Becker, they explore defining verbal sexual coercion and how it relates to unwanted sex. The authors define verbal sexual as “the psychological pressure to engage in coerced sex in the absence of physical force or explicit threat of force” (Becker and Pugh, 4). My own example of this could be if a person blatantly says no to intercourse and yet the offender continues to pressure the victim into having sex until the offender gets their way. I feel with this issue, a lot of people are uneducated on it, so they are unaware of it taking place, but in hindsight, they understand that what has happened was wrong.

Next, I will explain Title IX and its affiliation with sexual assault on campus and what happens if an act of sexual assault takes place. In 1972 the United States Education Amendment created Title IX states that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. In Brooke Boucek article, ‘Ridding the He-Said-She-Said Dichotomy: The Deep Entanglement of Sexual Violence on College Campuses’, Boucek explains that, Title IX applies to all facets of federally funded education programs or activities; both victims and those falsely accused receive protection through an equal opportunity for education apart from sexual harassment under federal law. The amendment of Title IX stems from the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, also there are other amendments that were created after Title IX that gave more justice to the victims of sexual violence. In ‘Title IX and The State of Campus Sexual Violence in the United States: Power, Policy, and Local Bodies’ by Jennifer R. Wies, she portrays the role of the 1990 Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act. Both Acts play a role in better protecting victims and women against crime that is upon them. The Clery Act requires colleges to put out an Annual Security Report, which shows all the crimes that have taken place during that school year. The Violence Against Women Act funds programs for women who are victims of violence and sexual assault. With three separate laws set out to protect victims and women against violence, one would expect the rates of sexual violence on college campuses to decrease. This is evidently wrong when the statistic that a woman will be sexually assaulted in college is one out of five . So, it causes me to question what is wrong with the system? Why is there not a decrease with the implementation of these Acts? What is the role of the people in charge when it comes to these situations?

In ‘The Role of Title IX Coordinators on College and University Campuses’ by Jacquelyn D. Wiersma-Mosley and James DiLoreto, they use a research study to define the role of Title IX coordinators. Their evidence shows that many Title IX coordinators are under qualified and inadequately trained for their job and the ability to take on such heavy cases like a case of sexual assault (Wiersma-Mosley and DiLoreto, 3). The authors define exactly what the coordinators should be trained for, which is “… [coordinators] must take immediate action to eliminate hostile environments, prevent recurrences; campus and schools must adopt and publish grievance procedures; employees must be trained to know how to report to officials; policies must be published that includes a notice of discrimination; all these must be combined with education and training programs” (Wiersma-Mosley and DiLoreto, 2). But according to the study done by Wiersma-Mosley and DiLoreto, several of the employees in this position feel that they are under qualified for the role and responsibility of a Title IX coordinator, which can explain why the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses has not decreased but has significantly increased.

So what can we do to change that? First, we can properly train Title IX coordinators so they are confident in the qualifications and the procedures they do when it comes to sexual assault. An idea of mine is that there could be a separate coordinator that deals specifically with sexual assault rather than sexual plus other discriminations that fall under the Title IX coordinators responsibility. In ‘A Title IX Conundrum: Are Campus Visitors Protected from Sexual Assault?’ by Hannah Brenner, the author has another idea for a way to decrease sexual assault on campus. Brenner believes that colleges and universities should accommodate for the visitors of campuses by allowing them to have the same rights as a student does under Title IX when it comes to sexual assault so that their case is dealt with in a just and equal manner (Brenner, 137).

Another idea to decrease the prevalence of sexual assault on campus was defined by Meredith G. F. Worthen and Samantha A. Wallace in ‘Intersectionality and Perceptions About Sexual Assault Education and Reporting on College Campuses'. They did a research that found that “women are more likely than men to be aware of issues associated with sexual assault” (Wallace and Worthen, 181) and “Men expressed less overall support for the [educational] program than women did… White men’s responses (20%) were the most likely to be classified as angry responses” (Wallace and Worthen, 190). Their evidence proves that not everyone is supportive of a sexual assault educational program and despite that, I believe that an educational program would be very influential. At Baylor, they provided one seminar at the beginning of the year that went over sexual assault on campus. It was evident by the responses in the audience that it was not taken seriously and my opinion is that Baylor did not portray it as a serious matter, it was just something that needed to be done. Schools need to emphasis on how serious this issue is and how sexual assault can easily change someone’s life.

The issue of sexual assault has many grey areas and determining the causes and truly learning about them can hopefully decrease the frequency of it occurring on college and university campuses. There is no doubt that alcohol increases the likelihood of sexual assault happening. Whether that be the victim drinking too much and not having a responsible guardian looking after them, or the offender drinking and having easier access to commit the crime. With that being said, alcohol is no excuse for someone to commit an act of sexual assault or rape, although it can influence someone in doing so it was their actions and desire to perform the act. Alcohol clouds judgment and makes it very difficult for someone to give their consent to any sexual act so to avoid sexual assault, in my opinion, people should stray from implementing sexual acts while under the influence. While I know that is not easy to control, having the knowledge of it prior to going to a bar or party could decrease sexual assault from happening. It is also important to discuss how men in homosocial groups are more likely to commit acts of sexual assault. When they already have low self-control, the pressure or encouragement to have sex by the men around them can influence men to commit sexual assault and rape. This theory could be applied to the Jacob Anderson case at Baylor or the Baylor football rape scandal in 2016. Therefor with the same mindset and respect of women, these men easily take advantage of a woman and take what they want just to fulfill their own sexual desires. Coercion can also influence sexual assault and it is very important for everyone to educate themselves on this because, without the knowledge of it, one can easily be coerced and not see the issue with it. The role of Title IX on college campuses is dysfunctional, coordinators are not properly trained to adequately help the victims of sexual assault. I believe that adding a branch to Title IX that specifically deals with sexual assault can help the victims and offenders feel as if their case is truly as important as it is. We can also decrease the amount of sexual assault on campus by properly educating the students on the issue and making sure it is portrayed as the serious issue that it is. It can be useful to educate the students more frequently rather than just once throughout their whole college education. Colleges need to take this issue more seriously so it can be dealt with better and decrease it. This issue is not something that should be normalized on college or university campuses, it is impactful to the victim's lives and it is an immoral issue that needs to be resolved so students can receive a proper education without having to worry about being sexually assaulted.

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