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On Sunday, September 3, I received an email from a USU mailing list informing students that an acquaintance rape had taken place on campus the previous day. The email contained suggestions that may be useful for protecting against being raped by a stranger, but are far less helpful for cases of acquaintance rape.
The safety tips provided in the email suggest that rapists are the shadowy figure in a parking lot, not your friends, coworkers, neighbors, and loved ones. But the truth is, you’re more likely to be raped by an acquaintance than a stranger. According to the National Institute of Justice, about 85 to 90 percent of sexual assaults reported by college women involve someone they know. The author of the email would have done well to provide resources that actually addressed the stated issue, rather than some useless boogey-man.
In addition, the woefully outdated safety tips imply, at some level, that being raped will always be a case of the victim not being careful enough or being poorly prepared for a possible attack. While I’m all for being careful and wary, university officials would have done better to also include a crash course on consent because the only real way to protect against acquaintance rape is to not rape your acquaintances.
Since we were in middle school, everyone has heard the same tips provided in the email, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much good. Repeating the same old advice is not good protection for students. Any way about it, the email would have benefited from either keeping itself purely informative (there was a rape on campus full stop) or by providing far more resources, such as brief educational content about consent, directions to the Sexual Assault and Anti-Violence Information Office, a statement saying that the university cares about its students, or any of the university funded resources that help students learn about sexual assault or seek help. All of these resources are surely as accessible to the author of the email as they are to me or you, if not more so.
Unquestionably, the intent of the email was to help protect students, but it falls short of making anyone feel safe. Considering recently publicized rapes and USU’s current anti-sexual violence efforts, I expect more than cheap talk from my university.
— Camille Harmer is currently working on a master’s degree in economics from the Huntsman School of Business.