Column: Sexual assault is a U.S. epidemic

Sexual assault has become a serious issue in America, with many arguing about the context surrounding it.

Annie Jennemann is a freshman journalism and English major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

The definition of sexual assault has been argued about for years, including disagreements about what someone was wearing, whether they were under the influence and more. It’s even been discussed about whether a verbal “yes” always means consent is given. But how can someone under the influence possibly give consent? Alcohol isn’t the problem. Clothing isn’t the problem; it’s the false assumption that these things are invitations to sexually assault someone.

My anger about the argument surrounding sexual assault began with a tweet I saw, which stated, “I’ve never been raped. Know why? Because I don’t dress like a prostitute or act overly sexual like most young women. Take some responsibility!”

This tweet instantly filled me with anger. How could anyone blame a victim of sexual assault? It’s simple: Sexual assault is the fault of the abuser.

I can recall a time during my senior year when I read “The Handmaid’s Tale” in my AP Literature and Composition class. This novel by Margaret Atwood is about the systematic rape in a dystopian society. Women either have children to build the population or are sent away to an unknown place.

We had a discussion about the idea of systematic rape where a classmate coined the term “consensual rape.” I heard the phrase and stopped talking. The explanation was that the main character had a choice, but it was still rape. They argued that even though the alternative solution was to be sent away, basically being banished from society, that the main character consented to being raped. I couldn’t believe the oxymoronic words I was hearing.

This led me to think about the different kinds of sexual assault and how no case is the same. Although “The Handmaid’s Tale” is an odd situation, in today’s society, women are blamed for giving consent under the influence, wearing revealing clothing and not necessarily saying no, which is similar to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

We need to realize that the clothes a woman wears are not the issue. The consciousness of a person isn’t the reason they were assaulted. The pressure a person feels when put into a situation of whether to say yes or no should not be ignored. The focus should be the multiple abusers who exist everywhere who get away with these crimes. There should be special focus on college campuses. On a college campus, 11.2 percent of students will experience rape or sexual assault through force on a college campus, according to a statistic on RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. That number should be zero.

MU has multiple resources to help students feel safe on campus after experiencing sexual assault. The Office for Civil Rights & Title IX enforces non-discrimination policies, educates about the policies, connects people to resources and listens to concerns in the community. It is a wonderful source to contact to learn about your rights and options if you choose to report an assault.

The Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center is committed to decreasing the prevalence of rape, sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking by creating a campus culture that does not tolerate violence, according to its website. It provides crisis intervention and services to students and survivors.

Sexual assault is an epidemic in today’s society. Although more resources are emerging to help prevent sexual assault and help survivors, the topic must be addressed more among everyone in the United States.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, you can contact the MU Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention center at (573) 882-6638 or in room G216 in the Student Center.

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