Fixing CSUN’s sexism problem

Photo+by+Venessa+Munoz
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Fixing CSUN’s sexism problem

Photo by Venessa Munoz

Photo by Venessa Munoz

Photo by Venessa Munoz

Photo by Venessa Munoz

Danielle Parmentier

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College campuses are often thought of as being a hotbed of sexual activity and, after the recent sexual assaults on the CSUN campus and in the neighboring areas, it seems that none is more prevalent in the minds of students than the non-consensual kind.

College age women are four times more likely to be victims of sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

“Females ages 18 to 24 had the highest rate of rape and sexual assault victimizations compared to females in all other age groups,” stated the Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report on Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization among College-Age Females for 1995–2013.

The Special Report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics asserts that while only 20 percent of female survivors who are students end up reporting to law enforcement, the reporting rate for victims who are not students is 13 percent higher than their student counterparts.

No single reason exists to explain why college students report less often to the police, but the Special Report contained data from survivors with a majority stating that they didn’t report because it was a “personal matter.”

These two statistics combined suggest that college students appear to be more likely than non-students to think their sexual assaults are a private issue.

Behind the frequency of these incidents occurring to this particular age range is a web of societal and individual attitudes towards sexual violence that are powerfully influential to not only individuals on college campuses, but to those off campus as well.

“As a culture, there is a high tolerance for women’s sexual exploitation,” said Dr. Breny Mendoza, a CSUN gender and women’s studies professor and published author. She explained that the sexual exploitation of women has been used as entertainment, to sell products commercially and, in some cases, it has been used in torture techniques.

“Rape is about power,” Mendoza said.

Reflecting the notion that sexual assaults and rapes are not based solely on sexual drive, CSUN’s University Counseling Services and peer education program Strength United aim to help victims of sexual violence recover and prevent further incidents.

On the CSUN campus, reflections of the larger societal issue of this gender bias seem to influence the way the campus approaches and handles its attitudes surrounding pre- and post-sexual assault attack measures.

For example, the Women’s Research and Resource Center organized the Town Hall meeting to address some of the concerns about sexual assault. However, the meeting, roughly two hours in length, took a noticeably victim-focused approach as opposed to having a focus on preventative measures or self-defense education.

Police Chief Anne Glavin did not address stopping future perpetrators and instead focused the majority of her speaking time on what to do after becoming a victim of sexual assault.

Signs and posters about sexual assault prevention hang in bulletin boards throughout the different departments and colleges on campus as a reminder to students who are or may become victims, yet no such literature aimed at potential future perpetrators can be found.

A majority of women are typically taught to educate themselves in self-defense techniques to try to defend against unwanted sexual advances, including how to use language to demonstrate seriousness and assertiveness without risking some sort of social backlash.

A victim-only focus by CSUN helps take the pressure off of the potential and past perpetrators on the campus and allows them to go through their college experiences free from the burden of having to learn to avoid certain behaviors or learning how to better refrain from violence.

The only sexual assault defense class listed on the CSUN Police Services website as being available to anyone in the CSUN community is the Rape Aggression Defense program [RAD], for which the university charges each participant $10 to register.

CSU Chico also has this program, but unlike CSUN, it provides the RAD training free to students.

“The most effective way to stop rape is to educate women and men about rape and change the underlying social values that make sexual aggression by men acceptable,” the CSUN Department of Public Safety said in their distributed flier titled “Myths about Rape.”

Rape, sexual assault and even gender bias in general are not only issues for the females being affected, but for their male counterparts as well.

For example, single mothers, who made up over 80 percent of the 12 million single-parent families in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, are raising young men who suffer when their breadwinner’s paycheck isn’t as big as it should be.

Developing the Men CARE program for the CSUN campus is an example of how men are recognizing a new reality, inclusive of gender and privilege awareness, and attempting to make a change in the underlying causes of a culture that is accepting of women’s sexual exploitation.

Students, staff and faculty who understand concepts about the way language can place more or less value on something such as an individual person or an entire population. They could seize the opportunity to be open with peers, educators and administrative personnel, and speak up when something sexist, racist or derogatory of another’s religion is said or done.

In an educational setting, sharing knowledge about how the behavior or attitudes of some may take away from others is an essential part of the learning experience and should be thought of as an integral part of the college learning experience.

Knowing that the data suggests that college victims are less likely to report their experiences to the police for various reasons, CSUN could take this opportunity to launch an advertisement campaign that is pro-reporting and approach the student body to look at this issue not only as a personal one, but a very public one also.

Having to purchase information on how to be protected through the RAD program creates a privilege which some students and community members may not be able to afford. With circumstances on campus surrounding sexual assault appearing to be worse this semester than previous ones, having this information be a privilege the university is asking money for, presents the impression that the university could be making money off of the fear surrounding the recent attacks.

The CSUN campus community is made up of over 40,000 students alone, over half of which, roughly 22,550 according to CSU Mentor which was updated in October of this year, identify as being female.

Each individual on campus — be they student, staff, faculty or visiting community member — has a unique set of beliefs, traditions and experiences.

By withholding their unique voices, the CSUN campus community misses out on the opportunity to not only learn something about someone else, but to learn about themselves through the eyes of another.

The power of a united community coming together to help improve a communal and educational space is only limited to the conviction of those within the community. But, if the community remains silent about issues relating to them, no unification can take place.