Stop Justifying All Sexual Assault

While at a party one Saturday night earlier this semester, a guy I had known came up to me and asked if I could take him home with me. After denying his request, in the middle of a large crowd, he grabbed me in an explicit way that made me feel uncomfortable. I felt violated.

I was embarrassed. We were surrounded by so many people. Did anyone see? Why was I frozen? Why didn’t I stand up for myself? I went to the restroom alone and told myself I was being dramatic. This was so small, it happens to girls all the time, and he was drunk. I justified his behavior.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in college. Although this number is already relatively high, 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses don’t report their assaults.

The extent to which sexual assault is normalized on college campuses is horrifying. Women need to understand that it is not just “aggressive flirting” it is a violation of her body if a man touches her in a way she does not wish to be touched, no matter his state of mind.

“A lot of students would describe things that were definitely sexual assault and they’d be like, ‘but it wasn’t assault, he was aggressively flirting.’ They just didn’t know that the actions described were sexual assault. If someone touches you sexually and you didn’t explicitly verbally tell them they could that is assault and they didn’t know that,” said senior political science major Cassidy Helikson, who did a case study on how California Lutheran University enforces Title IX for her capstone.

I would have never defined my moment as sexual assault, and I’m sure plenty of other women have felt a similar way.

“Before I did the project I didn’t know we had a Title IX office on campus. Just this semester they added it to the school’s website. It’s been on the website but there wasn’t a link on the homepage you could click on,” Helikson said. “There wasn’t a single person I interviewed for my capstone that knew we had a Title IX office.”

This form of behavior starts at an early age with the simple saying, “boys will be boys.” Girls are taught when a boy messes with her or bugs her, he likes her.

This is why “aggressive flirting” has become a topic of discussion. This creates the type of college culture where women do not recognize assault and men are never reprimanded for touching a woman.

This needs to be reversed now more than ever because it attaches a wrongful feeling of guilt to the victim.

Men need to be taught and punished for putting their hands on women without consent, and women need to be taught what assault is.

Maryssa Rillo
Staff Writer