Across the United States, women endure the constant reminder that they must protect themselves or else “something bad could happen.” Parents, educators and police officers drill into women the notion of the possibility of sexual assault if they are not careful or mindful of their sexuality.
As an ethnically diverse woman, a stigma is attached to living my life freely. In Latin American culture, a woman who desires to live life on her own terms and away from her family prior to marriage is considered taboo. I am reminded by my elders that freedom and independence is not guaranteed for women.
As a child growing into a young woman in a household laced with traditional Mexican morals, ethics and etiquette were particularly difficult. I was told that any direct expression of my femininity or sexuality was to be suppressed, and advances from men should be regarded with the highest suspicion.
This immensely suppressing ideology has hampered my ability to engage in the simplest of activities, and increased my paranoia and fear of what might happen to me because I am a woman.
Most women grow up with the debilitating fear that they might encounter an attacker, who will attempt to sexually assault them. Adding to this fear of sexual assault among women is the barrage of news reports that demonstrate how women are sexually assaulted while walking home from school, or arriving home late from a party.
College women are especially at risk of sexual assault. One out of 10 college women will be raped in their lifetime, according to Brown University health education statistics from Brown University.
At CSUN, the occurrence of sexual assault is far from low.
According to CSUN police’s Crime Awareness and Campus Security 2003 Report, two incidents of rape and seven incidents of sexual battery occurred on-campus, which also included CSUN’s residential units.
It is no wonder that women are afraid to walk alone and look over their shoulders as they walk to their cars.
Now, just imagine how many incidents of sexual assault or rape go unreported on-campus?
These types of statistics only fuel my family’s cultural rhetoric and resistance to a woman’s desire to pursue an active and independent life, is free from fear of being attacked sexually.
Since these sexual assault statistics are available and recorded, where is campus security? Where is the campus police presence at campus residences and during evening classes? The locations in which these incidents occurred at CSUN must be revealed so women can take the appropriate precautionary measures to ensure their safety.
More alarming, however, is CSUN’s most recent mid-year crime report, which indicated for the period of Jan. 1, 2005 to Jun. 30, 2005, two incidents of rape and one incident of sexual battery occurred on-campus.
The most current sexual assault statistics cover only a six-month span. If any indication can be made from CSUN’s 2003 sexual assault crime statistics as compared to 2005 mid-year statistics, it is that the incidence of rape and sexual assault on-campus, unfortunately, would likely increase.
It is no surprise that women buy and carry pepper spray, and practice self-defense techniques – the fear is evident and clear. Unfortunately, women from most cultures, who are brought up by some member of their family, will grow up with the notion that they must be weary of one person’s actions in which they will have no control over.
To live in fear is no way to live at all, however, if such incidents of sexual assault continue, women will have no other option, but to protect themselves in any method.
If this the case, sexual assault and rape awareness must be increased at CSUN and college campuses across the U.S. Campus police must also be readily available to women in areas that are most prone to incidents of sexual assault.
Such actions made by our college institutions to increase awareness of sexual assault, would make a small, but significantly positive change in the way Latina/o culture, as well as other cultures, view the idea of fear and independence among women.
Veronica Rocha can be reached at email@example.com.