The rape statistics for young women in college aren’t getting any better, no matter how much awareness we raise. So we have to think of ways to protect our young women, and not wait for the potential rapists to change. It is not “liberating” to push unprepared young women into places where they have no protection. Rape is devastating, whether it happens to a man or a woman, but the campus problem concerns mostly young women. Women have several strikes against them; they are usually physically weaker than men, or, if they are strong, they are unaccustomed to using this strength in fights or struggles. I found among my freshman students at Montclair State University that young women were also more sheltered than their brothers were while at home before beginning college; they are stunned and disoriented by many experiences they confront. The sequel to rape can include organ damage, STDS, and emotional devastation for both men and women, but women can also get pregnant. Duh.
Perhaps we have swung too much to co-educational housing. All-woman dorms, at least in the freshman year, while green teenagers try their wings in the independent world, would be protective. Strike me down, but I would make them mandatory.
A sign-out and sign-in sheet is an elementary protective step. Yes, your buddies can sign in and sign out for you if you are hellbent on breaking the rules, but it is one protective measure. I am thinking back to the 60s to remember that we also had a curfew in freshman year. It could be a generous one, but it would in any case be a limit, a boundary. If someone wanted to be out later than that, she could get permission. The curfew hour sits in the backs of the heads of people, and can guide their activity for at least most of the time.
Even better would be a buddy system. A young woman who is approached by a man or men when she is blotto drunk can be extracted from this situation by a buddy. Just as we have designated drivers, we should have designated buddies when drinking or when in a new party environment. If a drunk or drugged woman is unable to help herself, she must have someone near who will take responsibility for her, and not depend on the kindness of strangers.
I once taught a class at Montclair State University from 9:30-10:45pm. One of the women was going to drop the class because she was anxious about walking alone to her dormitory. I asked if anyone would volunteer to walk her home and a young man offered to accompany her, which he did after every class. (Of course, the thought did occur to me that he might take advantage of the situation to make a sexual advance, so I asked the student how that was going, and she expressed her gratitude to the young man.) If it makes sense to provide a buddy to simply walk the campus paths in the dark, how much more sense to have a buddy when going to a party.
Less effective would be a check-in system, wherein a woman would call a buddy every so often. The buddy would know where the young woman was and would be able to respond if the check-in was missed. The better the party, the less likely the buddy would remember to call in, but it’s one protective step that would be easy to take for people who wanted to do it.
An alarm system would also be helpful. I am not technologically adept enough to know whether such a thing already exists, but I think of my aunt who is 92 and unsteady. She has an alarm around her neck which she can press if she falls down or becomes distressed. It is easy enough to press a button that people can easily do it even in states of semi-consciousness. Or perhaps it could be a certain number on a cellphone, a freshman 911. The alarm could contact the campus police, a buddy, a resident assistant, or a campus medical facility. I suspect that students with, say, epilepsy or diabetes might have such alarms already. Why not use them to respond to threatening situations? It would make sense to have such alarm systems available to anyone who wanted one; they could pick one up on the way to a party or if they had to walk the campus at night, and return it when they came back.
Wringing our hands about excessive drinking, badboy behavior, the thuggish football mentality, raging hormones, or other naturally occurring phenomena is not going to solve this problem. Let’s take some steps to protect our young women. No means no, but when no doesn’t mean no, they have to have some means to save themselves from a situation which will affect them for the rest of their lives. Others are willing to help, but we have not established enough protective protocols to bring this help when it is needed.