November 23, 2014 Leave a comment
On November 10, Dr. David Lisak visited Goucher College to give a talk about sexual assault on college campuses. Unlike the Green Dot program, which gives students advice on how to avoid or get out of potentially dangerous situations, Lisak’s program focused more on how prevalent this issue is. Lisak started by talking about how much of an issue sexual assault is, particularly on college campuses. Rape and sexual assault are huge issues around the world, and in America are particularly egregious problems at colleges and universities. Any instances of sexual assault that occur at universities have less to do with the university itself and more to do with the people attending the university. People are most likely to experience sexually assault or rape between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four. These are the same ages that one is most likely to be at college. “The question isn’t ‘does the university have a problem?’ The question is ‘what are they doing about the problem?” Lisak said. Many colleges and universities don’t confront the issue because, as Lisak explained, they don’t want to be uniquely associated with it. Lisak discussed a few sexual assault scandals that had happened in recent years and the reactions that the institutions had towards the allegations. A part of this discussion involved the “myths” that often surround the perpetrators and victims of the crimes. For example one of the myths discussed was the ‘drunken encounter.’ Both parties are believed to be drunk, and therefore neither can be at fault for their actions. Another myth was that of ‘miscommunication.’ This means most ‘rapes’ are actually misunderstandings, the perpetrator thought the other wanted it, when they didn’t. In this case, the victim is often blamed because they ‘should have been clear about what they wanted and it was their fault for not speaking up. The other two myths are solely about the rapists: He only did it once and would never do it again and that he is “basically a nice guy.” The type of rape that Lisak discussed involved a male rapist and female victim, as it is the most common type of rape on college campuses. He did make a mention that anyone can be raped and anyone can be a rapist as well. In a study of 1,882 men, Lisak found that one hundred and twenty of them had attempted to commit or had committed rape or sexual assault at least once. Out of those one hundred and twenty men, seventy-six of them had committed rape or sexual assault multiple times. Lisak referred to these men as “serial rapists.” The serial rapists were more violent than the one-time offenders and had committed over four hundred rapes and six hundred other crimes including domestic and child abuse combined. The presentation also included a short video recording between Dr. Lisak and one of the seventy-six serial rapists, who was a college student at the time. The boy admitted that he and his fraternity brothers would target certain girls, typically freshmen, and invite them to a party for the sole purpose of getting them drunk and assaulting them. He described an incident where he assaulted a girl, and even though she tried to stop him, he continued as he said, “She had done it a thousand times before.” He did not believe what he was doing counted as “rape.” Afterwards, Lisak asked students what they thought of the video. Most appeared disturbed and bothered by the man’s behavior. Lisak described this behavior as typical of a serial rapist: narcissistic, anti-social and having a disregard for the victim’s humanity. Despite the the perceptions most people have, these boys didn’t just pop out of the bushes and assault a random girl. The assaults took careful planning. The fraternity brothers targeted very specific girls, typically freshmen and spent time grooming them before inviting them to a party. At the party, the boys would get the girls as drunk as possible and then bring them to designated bedrooms. The rooms would be furthest from the stairs and would be devoid of any personal items, so that the girls wouldn’t be able to tell who did it. Once the presentation was over, Lisak answered questions regarding his research, the role of alcohol in the assaults and explained how he thought schools should tackle the issue. Some one hundred students attended the event which was organized by Roshelle Kades, the Assitant Director for Social Outreach several other faculty members and student helpers. Earlier that day, Lisak also visited a sociology class, met with staff and faculty, and had lunch with student leaders. This was not Lisak’s first time visiting Goucher College. He had also visited in 2008. Kades decided to invite him because he is highly regarded in his field and that the school tries to invite one person a year to speak about sexual assault. She believes it will help raise awareness and it was a good way of “progressing dialogue.” The talk came just about a week after a Goucher student was sexually assaulted on campus. The assailant was not a Goucher student, but nonetheless it came as shock for the entire community. While Goucher has entirely different community than a larger school like the ones Lisak did his research at, the same general ideas still apply. Goucher still needs to raise awareness about sexual assault, and to encourage people to report anything that happens to them.