Let me begin by saying this post has been several months in the working. In the spring of this year I had the opportunity to view the documentary “The Hunting Ground.” As I watched and listened to the stories of countless young women across the country who had been sexually assaulted on college campuses, I was overcome with emotion over how they were treated by college administrators, athletics fans, and even their peers on campus. There are several issues I have with how women are treated and portrayed when they report sexual assault.
College and University Faculty and Staff
In several of the incidents which were highlighted in the film, students who were sexually assaulted told of how they reported the incidents to staff and administration at their collective colleges and universities. In case after case they were rebuffed with, “Are you sure you want to pursue this?” and “What did you do to bring this on?” This type of victim-blaming and victim-shaming is at the heart of why many women decide not to pursue criminal prosecution and are left bearing the burden of these crimes in silence. Several of the university officials who were interviewed spoke of how their schools would be viewed in the light of sexual assaults on campus and/or those involving their students. My response to this is very simple: “What are you afraid of?” If administration, faculty and staff were more forthright in reporting these cases, they could have an open policy of ensuring the safety of all those within their academic communities. The unfortunate truth is that so many institutions of higher learning are so fearful of lawsuits that they have allowed their lawyers to convince them that what they are doing is in their best (financial) interest. Instead of doing what’s right, they’re doing what they perceive alleviates them from the greatest outflow of income — follow the money. I would like to believe that all incoming college students are aware of the danger of sexual assault. If colleges and universities would PROACTIVELY support a culture which works to end sexual assault instead of sticking their heads in the sand and acting like it doesn’t exist, I believe perspective students would find this honesty refreshing and be more likely to choose to attend these types of schools.
We have no other choice
Many students at schools across the nation were so outraged by their schools’ responses to sexual assault that they began legal challenges to the way their cases were handled by school administrators that they began challenging them on Title IX violations. Once again, had schools done the right thing up front, they wouldn’t be dealing with the legislation that is coming about because of their mishandling of these cases. As the saying goes, “the coverup is worse than the crime.” I applaud these students for their resolve in not allowing the inaction and negligence in the way schools have handled these cases at the university level to go unchecked.
The student-athlete angle
If you spend any time listening to Ben Maller, you have undoubtedly heard him speak of the term being something lawyers invented to avoid paying workers’ compensation to injured athletes. I am using the term here only to identify the students who are enrolled in colleges and universities and are involved in intercollegiate sports competition. From the film, several of the more disheartening stories came from the women (and their families) who recounted incidents of high-profile student-athletes who were accused of sexual assault. The university police departments, school administrators, and intercollegiate athletic officials in tandem have done a great disservice to students on many college campuses. The case involving former Baylor head football coach Art Briles, while only the latest is hardly the most egregious. It’s another case in which you simply need to follow the money. It’s not a good look for any school to have it’s athletes accused of a crime as heinous as sexual assault, so many try to put the squeeze on the women coming forth to report sexual assaults. Oftentimes these tactics have catastrophic results.
Sexual assault in the general public
One of the greatest problems with sexual assault is that so many men are so cavalier about it. As our current president-elect’s conversations reveal, many men do not view this as a problem. The fact that our culture has endorsed speaking of women as objects for men’s sexual gratification is horrifyingly indefensible. I blame men. All of us who have spoken about women in this way are to blame. The worst thing is this isn’t just about acquaintances. There are many among us who have been exposed to or are aware of cases of women who have been victims of sexual assault by members of their own families.
Healing and accountablity
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
Isaiah 53:5 NLT
I know the healing power of Christ to resuscitate and revive any situation. I am witness to healing by identifying with the brutality he faced on Calvary and taking upon myself the healing he so freely gives. I am also aware of the ways in which we desire to know and be known. Identifying with those who have faced similar ordeals helps many come to terms with their pain and realize that they are not alone and can be surrounded by those who wish to offer support. At the end of this post I will provide websites for a few organizations that are working to this end.
In the end, I just want to remind men “Our strength should be used to protect.”