The peers of SpeakUP Bucknell greatly appreciate the attention that the opinion article titled “Protection from Sexual Assault Requires Cooperation” (March 2, 2012) raised on this important issue. However, we also wanted to weigh in with our opinion on the matter, especially with House Party and other parties and celebrations that take place in the spring. We feel that the intent of the article–giving advice to women on how to reduce their risk of being sexually assaulted–is both important and well-meaning, although we find the language to cross over into what can be considered victim-blaming. This is not to say the author intended to do so, but we contend that language such as girls “[allowing]” attacks, the disregard for alcohol as a date rape drug, the idea that risk-reducing behaviors can eliminate sexual assault and the suggestion that the onus for prevention is on the pursued party takes the blame from the perpetrator and places it in on the victim.
This representation of the issue alleges that one can eliminate their risk of being sexually assaulted by drinking less or watching the people they are with, which is not true. The only way to truly eliminate sexual assault is for perpetrators not to commit these crimes. This difference in language illustrates the distinction between risk reduction and prevention. In a perfect world, risk reduction would be unnecessary, but statistically speaking, it is true that one can potentially reduce their risk of being assaulted by practicing some of the safety behaviors the article suggests. However, real prevention requires that the entire campus community works together to create an environment that supports survivors, holds perpetrators accountable and embraces the belief that even one assault is too many.
These points are particularly salient at parties or gatherings with a large consumption of alcohol, when it is more likely that people will be intoxicated beyond the legal ability to give or obtain consent. We are requesting that each student not only look out for themselves at all times, but also for all other students and their visitors. Again, we appreciate the attention brought to this issue by the article, and especially to the “call to arms,” but it is a “call to arms” that we are extending to all students.
If you are interested in joining our effort and possibly becoming a peer educator, email us at SpeakUP@bucknell.edu, or if you’d simply like to support the cause, “like” us on Facebook.
SpeakUP Bucknell Peers