According to the United States Center for Disease Control, between 20 and 25 percent of college women experience sexual assault, attempted rape or rape during their time in college. Rape is a very specific and escalated form of sexual assault that occurs in the United States about every two minutes according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Last week, the Women’s Student Assembly addressed this appalling reality with its annual “Take Back the Night” event, enabling women to speak out against the horrific crimes of sexual assault and call for men to take a closer look at how they treat women.
The struggle to overcome this social problem is twofold: The legal system is ineffective at preventing the crime, and the culture of macho fails to encompass a genuine care and honor for women. The most effective solution would be a reformation of popular views on manhood.
Sexual assault convicts average between eight and nine years in prison while rape convicts average between 12 and 13 years, according to a past DOJ report. Conviction rates remain relatively low because of a lack of evidence and an unwillingness of witnesses to testify.
The punishments for sexual assault, given their low conviction rate, poorly prevent the crime.
Many solutions have been proposed to curb sexual assault and rape, but the crimes cannot be easily subdued.
Perhaps to make up for the low conviction rate, the punishment should be more severe. If sexual assaulters or rapists were sentenced to capital punishment, more would be deterred from the crime.
But the escalation of punishment to the a death penalty would make criminals more likely to execute their victims and witnesses, since that murder would result in the same punishment as an assault. Thus, escalating the punishment of these sexual assault crimes might be inefficient or result in harsher crimes.
One effective means to reduce the crime rate would be to remove the shame associated with the crime that prevents women from reporting their victimization and testifying against their assailants. But this has proven very difficult.
The most efficient and valuable prevention of sexual assault is to change the social mores surrounding “manliness.” The most relevant of these often unjust standards include the need for men to be “macho” and the increased respectability for those engaged in sexual relations with women — i.e., the more, the better.
These mores can lead to aggression and emotional detachment according to Gail Dines, an American Studies professor at Wheelock College in Boston. Because men want to be macho, they become more prone to committing sexually violent crimes.
The Feminist Review cites other studies that show sexual assault and rape to be crimes of sexual power and manipulation rather than sexual pleasure — a reason why rape is prevalent by conquering armies in times of war.
The solution to sexual assault crimes is rewriting the definition of manliness to include a genuine care and honor toward women.
If men truly put women before themselves, are willing to sacrifice for women and treat women as equals, the problem of sexual assault would greatly diminish.
People generally condemn sexual assault. However, the fight against this crime requires some intentionality and awareness on a practical level — particularly at college parties. The power to impede sexual crimes is in the hands of individuals, not any organization at large.
This power is particularly important for members of the respectable USC Greek community, which has traditionally developed campus, business and global leaders.
Although many women do not report their victimization, knowledge and rumors of the crimes in the Greek community have spread, potentially deterring future leaders already on campus from joining the Greek system.
If we, men, take on a chivalrous attitude toward women, we could largely rid our campus of sexual assault. This solution can begin with just a few brave men dedicated to honoring women in their own circles and willing to confront someone acting inappropriately.
Curbing sexual violence does not require everyone to create picket lines at parties or any other form of political activism. Rather, these men will create a culture in their respective communities that breeds a natural accountability, allowing us to hold a higher standard for our university.
For those that really care about ending this grave injustice toward women, let us take on a heart of chivalry: a genuine and pure care for women. Let us honor each other until sexual assault and other abuses are rare.
Jensen Carlsen is a senior majoring in economics and mathematics and a member of Alpha Gamma Omega fraternity. His column “The Bridge” runs Wednesdays.