In just a few days my younger sister will be graduating from high school, and in just a few months, she will be starting college. Although this is an incredibly exciting time in her life, I almost wish I could keep her in high school forever. Why am I so worried? Sexual assault on campus, and the stigma that “if it happens, it happens, it’s just frat culture.”
I know that if I had younger brothers instead, this fear would cease to exist.
At the end of my sophomore year of college, my best friend told me that she was almost sexually assaulted at a party. A boy that she had turned down for months decided that no wasn’t a good enough answer, tricking her into drinking to the point that she was vomiting. She passed out in his bed. When she texted me this, I was infuriated, holding back tears in my class, and also wanting to punch a hole in the wall next to me. If it wasn’t for one of her friends intervening, taking her home and watching her, the boy would have been successful. This pig even had the audacity to play off the night as a joke, as if continuing to feed her shots to the point of blacking out and not scoring was comedic.
I will never forget the day after I was sexually assaulted, sobbing to a friend at a bench outside at our campus’ chapel wondering if it was my fault and why I had put myself in that situation. Society had taught me to victim blame myself. A boy I had never met, drugged me, and had sex with my near lifeless body. I knew what was going on, but I literally didn’t have the energy to say no or push him off me. Because I was so uneducated about sexual assault, rape, and verbal and physical consent, I didn’t even know what the situation was classified as. Just because society would be so quick to ask: I wasn’t wearing anything particularly suggestive. I wasn’t throwing myself at him. I wasn’t someone that didn’t know of my rights. I wasn’t someone who consented to anything. Yet it happened anyway.
Change Is Not Coming Fast Enough...
Colleges have made an effort to try to teach students about consent, but I believe it does little to help. At my school, the summer before freshman year, we were forced to watch a 5-minute cartoon comparing rape to offering someone tea and if they don’t want it, don’t force it. This quickly became a joke at our school, and in my opinion, did nothing. If anything, it just made people take the concept of consent less seriously. Consent needs to be taught at a younger age. This begins with a lack of comprehensive sexual education in middle and high school.
Universities that continue to make jokes about sexual assault (or pretend that a five-minute video will solve all their problems) permit their male students to expect that they will get away with sexual assault. And female students are more at risk than ever.
At the root of all of this is the notion that some men are raised to believe that it’s okay to have non-consensual sex with a woman, conscious or unconscious.
One in four women will be sexually assaulted by the time she is 21, but these are only the reported cases. Every girl I know has a story about sexual assault or knows a close friend that has had an encounter with sexual assault. Why can’t girls go out alone? Why are we constantly on edge at night walking around our own campuses, a supposed safe space?
As Margaret Atwood famously wrote: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
This is not the college experience I want my sister, or anyone for that matter, to have. We both grew up very sheltered, we weren’t allowed to party, we didn’t spend much alone time with boys, and we definitely weren’t prepped on sexual assault and party culture in college. We had only seen what was glorified in movies.
This summer, I’ve made it my mission to teach her as much as possible so that she does not end up in the same situation as I did. Or as my best friend did.
What I Plan To Teach My Sister
I wish I didn’t have to go over this with her, but because I don’t trust universities to stop it, I have to take matters into my own hands. Here are some of the things I hope to teach her:
Always be in control of your body and your mind when you are somewhere unknown.
Always stay with a friend at the party, and do not let them leave you there.
Always know what you are drinking, never accept an opened drink from a stranger.
These sound like no-brainers, but if she forgets just one, someone may have an opportunity to take advantage of her.
I am disgusted and disappointed that this has to be my main priority for her this summer. I would much rather help her plan her class schedule, shop for dorm décor, and help her find clubs that she might want to join.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have been monumental in creating a broader conversation, however, we have a long long way to go. Especially on college campuses.
I have another sister who is not far behind this one in her journey to college. Hopefully, by the time she enters college, more progress will be made legally and as a society. By then, hopefully, both myself and my middle sister won’t have to spend time educating our baby sister on what not to do at a party, and more about how to make the years memorable in a positive way.
Author: Lidija Jurovich
Lidija is a rising junior at the University of Maryland pursuing a degree in Marketing with a minor in Non-Profit Leadership. Growing up on the West Coast, Lidija has learned that traveling and meeting new people is one of her favorite things to do. She hopes to create her own non-profit clothing company with proceeds benefiting victims of child abuse or pursue a career in marketing for empowering and inclusive clothing or beauty companies. Currently, she is a brand ambassador for Aerie, where she works to promote body positivity and empowerment on UMD’s campus.