Community members march against rape culture and gender inequality in Boston.

Community members in Boston march against rape culture and gender inequality.

In a world where Brock Turner goes free after three short months in jail, people wonder what can be done about sexual assault.  It is hard to find peace of mind when the blame of sexual assault falls upon victims and law enforcement fails to impart adequate justice.

The Association of American Universities reported that one in five women and one in twenty men report being sexually assaulted during their college career. Most of the time victims are too afraid to report incidents or fail to even recognize that they’ve been assaulted. Even worse, when students do come forward, their cases are not taken seriously.

In order to give women a weapon against sexual assault, according to USA Today, sororities at colleges like San Diego State and Indiana University have begun holding sexual assault education seminars. In order to break common myths about sexual assault, education is necessary to combat ignorance. Students who attend training sessions can leave with a sense of confidence in their ability to deal with an attacker. 

While there is a vast room for improvement in rape culture across the United States, colleges, including University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, should have training sessions specifically aimed towards sexual assault that provide education and self-defense training.

Sexual assault on college campuses

The severity of sexual assaults on college campuses is no secret. In 2014, President Obama even launched a campaign to deal with the epidemic, called “It’s On Us”. Upon introducing “It’s On Us” to the American people, President Obama aptly described the flaws of how sexual assault is treated in today’s society.

“It’s [trauma from sexual assault] there when you’re forced to sit in the same class or stay in the same dorm with the person who raped you; when people are more suspicious of what you were wearing or what you were drinking, as if it’s your fault, not the fault of the person who assaulted you.  It’s a haunting presence when the very people entrusted with your welfare fail to protect you.”

While men and women are both victims of sexual assault, women on college campuses in particular live with the constant fear of becoming part of the one in five statistic.

Evidence supporting sexual assault training

The pretext for offering training for sexual assault should not be confused as ignoring the root of the problem: the offenders. 

Instead, as a social psychologist at the University of Windsor Charlene Y. Senn puts it, “It gives women the knowledge and skills they need right now, but the long-term solution is to reduce their need to defend themselves.”

Senn was part of a study called that found that the risk of rape in women went down from 10 percent to 5 percent with education and training. This study involved 451 first-year female students at three different Canadian campuses who received education and training on sexual assault.

Current resources at Mānoa

Students at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa have the option to go to PAU Violence in Queen Liliuokalani Center to deal with sexual violence, dating or domestic violence and stalking concerns. At the moment, PAU Violence only does training sessions for “faculty, staff, and student leader groups about the various resources available to students who experience interpersonal violent.”

Meanwhile, Campus Center regularly holds self-defense training sessions for students. Self-defense training may help student in situations where the perpetrator is a stranger but not when they are an acquaintance or lover, which they often can be. In fact, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) found that only 7 percent of perpetrators were strangers.

In addition to self-defense training sessions, students of Mānoa can take free training sessions for hurricane preparedness and active shooter situations.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2014 there were 11 reported cases that constituted as sexual assault at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Keep in mind these are only the reported cases. It is not uncommon for majority of sexual assault cases to go unreported due to shame or fear of retribution.

While Manoa has yet to be affected by a major hurricane, the University has deemed hurricanes as more of a danger to students than sexual assault, despite proof that sexual assault has happened and continues to happen on campus.

What should sexual assault training entail?

Mānoa is lacking a program specifically tailored to address sexual assault that is available to all students. Offering education about what constitutes sexual assault, recognizing a sexual assault situation and what to do if someone finds themselves at risk of being sexually assaulted may not prevent it altogether, but can reduce risk.

These sessions should also offer advice for what to do in the aftermath of sexual assault, whether the student themself was a victim or someone they know. The psychological trauma of sexual assault can be the hardest obstacle to overcome. Victims blame themselves for what happened and may often go through the attack again and again in their head, wondering what they could have done. Victims should know that their sexual assault had nothing to do with their competency, but rather that the blame falls entirely on their attacker.

The consequences of a hurricane or a shooting may be more visible than that of sexual assault, but the victims of sexual assault harbor the very real trauma within them every day. It is time for the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and colleges nationwide to stop living in denial that sexual assault doesn't happen on their campuses. These institutions should also provide all students with education and training geared toward sexual assault.

We can no longer ignore or deny this critical problem as it is a reality of college life, and we must recognize and combat it head on.