OPINION: UVa’s Policy on Sexual Assault is Embarrassing

“Each of us has the power to step in and help someone we believe might be vulnerable to sexual violence.”

This is UVa’s policy on sexual assault, and it’s problematic for a couple of reasons.

One, it relies entirely on bystander intervention. And two, it assumes that 19-year-olds can identify and address various levels of sexual assault.

The reality is, acts of ‘sexual violence’ are often indistinguishable from those commonly performed in Greek settings.

Fraternity recruitment traditions guide groups of men to perform, as UVa alumnus Jia Tolentino puts it, “interpersonal physical violence” and to “reproduce this violence onto each other’s bodies.”

While it’s incorrect to assume all frat bros are rapists, or that sexual assault doesn’t occur outside of the Greek system, it is worth noting that fraternity culture cultivates a hostile environment in which a “a tremendous amount [can] go unseen” (Tolentino).

Another relevant, controversial issue (disregarded by UVa’s policy) is consent.

According to Hannah Shadowen, President of One Less, consent should be a conversation.

“It’s really as simple as ‘Do you want to have sex,’” she explains.

“A lot of times girls think that when they say ‘no,’ then that’s the end of the encounter, but in actuality, the next question could be, ‘Okay, what do you want to do?’”

Unfortunately, this conversation is seldom initiated, and what results is a spectrum of gestures and motions that can easily be misconstrued.

Results from a Post-Kaiser poll reveal that people disagree on what consent looks like: 40 percent of college students believe that undressing, grabbing a condom, or nodding in agreement establishes consent for further sexual activity, while another 40 percent believe otherwise.

The University needs to provide more opportunities for students to discuss issues surrounding sexual assault, including gender norms, consent, and Greek culture.


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