To be clear, a number of resources are available to victims of sexual assault at UF. According to the University of Florida Policy on Sexual Assault, victims are encouraged to report to the University Police Department’s Special Investigation Unit, the Gainesville Police or the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, all of which are staffed with professionals trained to assist victims.
The UF Office of Victim Services provides civilian support through the Victim Advocate Program, a confidential service that ensures victims know their rights and are treated with respect and fairness. The UF Counseling & Wellness Center offers confidential individual or group counseling for anyone dealing with “any form of sexual exploitation.” The services are available to students at no cost.
Alachua County also has a Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center, which provides 24/7 phone support to victims of rape and sexual assault. The hotline number is 352-264-6760.
While it’s commendable both UF and Alachua County offer victim services, current campus-rape statistics and the stories of female students who have been raped or sexually assaulted suggest a need for a more proactive approach to stopping rape. It’s simply not enough to offer women BlueLight apps and tailored self-defense courses, especially since the National Institute of Justice reported that about 85 to 90 percent of college women who report sexual assault know their assailants.
According to Psychology Today, college rapists are not strangers in the night, as the most common rape myth stipulates. One study on personality traits of college rapists revealed that assailants are repeat offenders who see nothing wrong with their behavior and often aren’t caught.
Statistics on Vassar College’s Sexual Assault Violence Prevention page presented more unsettling information: 84 percent of college men who committed rape said what they did wasn’t rape.
The most commonly suggested proactive approach to ending rape culture is implementing consent education.
If UF simply added a sexual-consent workshop during Preview and mandated that fraternities educate their members on sexual consent, perhaps we could see lower rates of rape and sexual assault on and around campus.
Rhiannon Holder, a youth worker for Brook, a sexual-health charity in the United Kingdom, told The Guardian that society needs to better clarify what informed sexual consent entails.
‘Too often [consent] is viewed as a simple yes or no, and it’s much more complex than that,’ says Holder. ‘I don’t think many young people are offered the opportunity to explore all of the factors involved in giving consent: peer pressure, alcohol and drugs, self-esteem, coercion, gender issues.’”
Experts have weighed in, and data doesn’t lie: Moving forward, colleges — including UF — need to engage college men by making sure they know that if a woman is intoxicated, she can’t consent. If a woman is asleep, she can’t consent. And if she doesn’t explicitly say “yes,” she’s not consenting.
A version of this editorial ran on page 6 on 9/17/2013 under the headline "UF needs to educate students on consent"