In Depth: Combating rape culture
Reports of rape and sexual assault on the UAlbany campus have tripled in the past two years. However, campus leaders say it’s not what UAlbany is doing wrong, it’s actually what the university is doing right that caused the jump.
According to the Association of American Universities, one in four women experience a sexual assault while in college. It’s a sobering statistic that students, female and male, can quantify with personal experience.
UAlbany has already armed 800 students with education to combat campus rape culture. The goal is for every member of the student body to experience the university’s empowered bystander training while earning their diploma. The program provides the tools young people need to assist their friends, even strangers, when they need them most.
"This young lady was not able to take care of herself, so I took steps to make sure she was safe," explained Saben Durio, a UAlbany graduate student.
Women are not the only focus. Men are taught about affirmative consent but also the crucial role they play in stopping sexual violence.
"Because of the culture around masculinity, we need to educate ourselves," urged Donavan Swanson, another UAlbany graduate student.
Which is a departure from rape prevention education of the past.
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"As men we are required to make sure we are active in situations where we can assist," noted Felix Abrieu, a UAlbany senior.
Those who investigate sex crimes are also learning.
"Years ago, police attitude may have been, ‘We’re here if you want to make a report, otherwise have a nice day’," acknowledged Senior Investigator William Shea with New York State Police.
The criminal case is now secondary and more attention is paid to the needs of the victim.
"We are trying to change their perceptions so they don’t re-victimize the people," explained Shea.
All of this is facilitated by the university’s two-year-old advocacy center for sexual violence. It’s staffed by full time experts who maintain that the tripling of incident reports since its inception means that students feel comfortable coming forward and know that they will be believed and supported.
"The existence of the office informs students that the university isn’t going to put sexual violence reporting under the rug," explained Carol Stenger with the Advocacy Center for Sexual Violence.
College kids will always be college kids.
"The only thing you should be experiencing is a hangover if you have too many drinks," pointed out Saben.
"At the end of the day we should do whatever want and still feel safe," commented Chloe Sumner a UAlbany senior.
However, they are graduating with much more than just a degree.
"We all play a part in destroying rape culture and bringing down the statistics," concluded Durio.