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Julia Neves, Queen’s University
Edited by Sefanit Zeray
Sexual assault in a college scenario is not a new occurrence, in fact, it is sadly common enough that precautions are issued on campuses all around the world. Young girls are well-aware of this issue since we have been continually reminded of this danger while growing up. Our parents’ excitement that their child had succeeded and was going to take their first steps into adulthood is quickly replaced by fear. We are told to be careful, cover our drinks, be aware of our exits, never walk home alone, and countless other things. The reason why a crime, a horrific action, is attached to the idea of college is because of the countless victims of sexual assault that occur in this environment. According to RAINN.org Female college-aged students (18-24) are 20% more likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault. Sadly, this was put into perspective for the students in our Queen’s University community when we heard what had happened at Western where dozens of students were drugged and sexually assaulted on campus. There have been several other cases in universities around the globe.
Cases of sexual assault on campus have been associated with Fraternities in which protests have been incited in order to abolish them. Two recent examples of these protests were at the University of Southern California and the University of Iowa. Although in both instances, the alleged sexual assault had occurred at an earlier date, people have only been informed of them now. In the case of the University of Southern California, the allegations against the fraternity Sigma Nu were made public recently and the student body was rightfully enraged, demanding more accountability. In contrast, the case at the University of Iowa came to light after an online petition went viral describing the events that went down in which members of the fraternity Phi Gamma Delta House allegedly drugged, raped, and even videotaped a student. The petition was created because despite having more than enough proof, the Iowa City county attorney notified the victim that the matter would not be taken to court after nearly a year of battling. The victim has now filed a lawsuit saying that two members of a fraternity raped her last year and that the attack was orchestrated by other fraternity members.
These are only two examples of many that highlight an enormous problem with universities when it comes to sexual assault – that being, their lack of accountability or their attempts to hide the problem. The petition for the case at the University of Iowa stated that even after she reported the boys, they were still allowed on campus and even sat in the same class as her. Not only was that traumatic for the victim, it is also dangerous for others who have contact with these individuals and could be possible next victims. The cases at USC was even more worrying in that there are several allegations of sexual assault and drugging at the Sigma Nu fraternity. Allowing these individuals on campus compromises the safety of everyone around them. What makes this harder to stomach, is that there is a need to protest for appropriate measures to be taken and for justice to be served. Sexual assault is a crime; rape is a crime; drugging people is a crime.
When going out, especially to clubs and parties, the rules my mom always taught were: pour your own drinks, never drink out of an open bottle, never drink after you put your drink down, and cover your cup. Now, these already excessive precautions have become futile since the new trend is to inject the drug directly into the victim’s bloodstream when they least expect it. This has been occurring mostly in the United Kingdom with police saying that they have already received over 100 reports with victims showing needle marks and bruises on their skin. This report has included a student from the University of Nottingham, Zara Owen, who claims that she was out at a nightclub and the next morning, she had no recollection of the night before. She then discovered, after noticing that her leg was in pain, that there was a pinprick. After the word spread nationwide, many students and people have been boycotting clubs demanding more meaningful action by the government to ensure that this stops. The hashtag #girlsnightin was created in an effort to push the clubs and bars to enforce stronger security measures so that spiking of any kind does not occur, especially with this new method. It is terrifying to see the lengths people will go in order to get other people into a fragile state so that they can take advantage of them. Even though it was already ludicrous that when going out clubbing we had to be careful with our drinks, now with needles, no precaution can be taken. The only way to avoid it is to not be there in the first place, which is punishing people who just want to go out and have fun.
Sexual assault persists in the university setting because there is a lack of punishment for offenders and meager support for victims. Now hearing about the new method of being injected with these drugs, makes going out to parties and clubs sound less like fun and more like a danger. The most disheartening part of this topic is, how many of these people are unaware that they have been sexually assaulted or feel like they cannot speak up because there is no action being taken by officials. I now understand why my mother always drilled these precautions into my young mind even though a young Julia could not grasp why she could not just let loose. I understand why my father insisted on picking me up after a night out even though he was exhausted and had worked all day. I understand why my parents take all these extra steps just to ensure that I am not a victim. However, I could do everything right and still be sexually assaulted, drugged, or raped. This is why we have a voice and need to scream until progress is made. I should not need to feel afraid to go out, walk home alone, or go to a party. Sexual assault is a crime and those who commit it should be publicly shunned for their actions so that there are no more victims.
“Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics.” RAINN, https://www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence.
Malicki, Beth. “Woman at Center of Univ. of Iowa Frat House Rape Allegations Speaks Out.” Https://Www.kcrg.com, https://www.kcrg.com/2021/10/26/woman-center-univ-iowa-frat-house-rape-allegation-speaks-out/.
McAboy, Koco. “Students March at USC amid Allegations of Sexual Assault, Drugging at Fraternity House.” FOX 11 Los Angeles, FOX 11 Los Angeles, 26 Oct. 2021, https://www.foxla.com/news/students-march-at-usc-amid-allegations-of-sexual-assault-drugging-at-fraternity-house.
Nicholson, Bailey, and Nikitha Martins. “Survivors of Sexual Violence at Western University Spark Nationwide Conversations.” CityNews, https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/09/22/sexual-violence-western-university-canada/.
Nicole. “Assaults in UK – British Youths Unwittingly Drugged by Injection.” News in 24 English, News in 24 English, 22 Oct. 2021, https://news.in-24.com/news/232977.html.
“Sign the Petition.” Change.org, https://www.change.org/p/everyone-fiji-university-of-iowa.
“U.K. Women Boycotting Clubs, Pubs amid Reports of Drink Spiking, Needle Injections | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 27 Oct. 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/uk-women-boycott-clubs-drink-spiking-1.6227378.