Why I Wasn’t Afraid of Getting Sexually Assaulted in College

In college, I had a small collection of blue t-shirts with the words “It Affects Me” written on them.  My fellow gauchos know exactly what I’m talking about.  Those of you who missed out on attending the greatest school ever, though, are probably wondering why I would have such a self-centered wardrobe.

The “It Affects Me” campaign was put on my UCSB students each year to promote awareness and prevention of sexual assault my helping each other see that nobody is immune from it’s dangers.  Yes, all women.  And yes, all men.  Rape and other forms of sexual aggression are serious problems at colleges in general, and the intense party culture of UCSB perhaps made us even more prone to it.

I love free t-shirts, I wanted to fit in with my feminist classmates, and I find sexual assault prevention to be a worthy cause, so I always made sure to get to the tables where they were distributed while they still had my size.  I would scribble something on a huge piece of butcher paper, along with hundreds of other students, about why the issue of sexual assault affected me, and then lay claim to my prize- my blue t-shirt.

I don’t remember what I scribbled.

I may have made something up.

I just really like free shirts.

I was never sexually assaulted in college (or ever, really).  No one ever tried to slip a drug in my drink.  I was never grabbed at a party.  I never had anyone make false assumptions about my sexual willingness.  I was never called a “slut” or other shaming word because I did or did not have sex.

I also never went to parties.  I never drank (not once), got high (not once), exposed my midriff, thighs, or cleavage (not once), and I never “hooked up” with someone I had just met (not once).

I had the same small group of friends throughout college.  We stayed up late, we had fun, we were less than responsible.  But we had an understanding that we didn’t have sex with each other.  None of us were going to do that, or do anything like that.  We went to DP for the famed Halloween celebration, but we (the girls) wore normal clothes instead of the typical barely-there naughty nurse costume.

For me, in college, sexual assault was not really an issue.  Now, it was an issue in the sense that getting mugged is an issue- meaning that, of course, it is always a possibility.  But it wasn’t something I thought about, it wasn’t something that I was afraid of, and it wasn’t something that, honestly, was likely to happen to me.

Now I am going to need to say this at some point, so I may as well say it now: I am in no way implying that when a woman (or man, or child) is sexually assaulted that they are in any way “asking for it”.  The victim of sexual violence is never responsible.  Not even a little bit.  Even if she is wearing tiny shorts and walks by real slow and bends over right in front of you and calls you “baby” and talks about how she likes to have sex, she still isn’t asking for it.

So no, when one is sexually assaulted they are not responsible, but it is wrong to act like we have no control over the likelihood of such an event taking place.  There are things that we can do to greatly decrease the chances.

Like not drinking alcohol or using drugs, not going to huge parties, not making out with people when you first meet them, and, as much as it pains me to say this, not dressing in a revealing manner.

Now I know that you are probably having one of two responses to that last sentence.  One of which is, “You can get raped when you are fully clothed and sober by someone you know well in the middle of the day in the library!”  True, you can.  And sadly, people do become victims of sexual violence in situations very similar to this one.  But how many people get date raped at 1 in the afternoon, as opposed to 1 in the morning?  How many people get assaulted going bowling, as opposed to at a frat party?

The second one is, “But women should be allowed to wear what they want, drink what they want, and go where they want without fear of someone hurting them.”  Yes, they should be able to.  I wish they could.  But as the world stands today, not all situations are equally safe.

I know that the idea of not being sexually active, not drinking, not partying, and not dressing in a revealing way in one’s college years probably seems foreign to most people, since these things in large part define the culture of college.  But I know that the way I lived in college protected me.  We are not powerless in protecting ourselves- whether or not we become a victim is not just a matter of chance.  Fearing sexual assault on a regular basis does not have to be part of a person’s college experience.

Now, if I had lived differently and had gotten raped, it would not have been my fault.  Also, I am not claiming any kind of moral high ground.  I am also not claiming that I was less deserving of sexual assault than any other- we are all equally non-deserving of such an occurrence.

So I’m not talking about deservingness, I’m talking about power, and I’m talking about protection.





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7 thoughts on “Why I Wasn’t Afraid of Getting Sexually Assaulted in College

  1. Greatstorysis says:

    Burkas for everyone!

  2. Amanda says:

    It is fantastic that you are comfortable with who you are, and that who you are is someone who is religious, teetotaling, and conservative(ish) of garb and behavior. However, the world is a big and diverse place, and as you know, there are as many ways to experience it as there are people.

    Basic morality checkboxes aside, your habits and likes are no more legitimate than those of party animals, surfers, ravers, or any other less buttoned-down subculture. What you’re espousing is not common sense prevention–it is perpetuating the unfair redistribution of the burden of preventing assault back to victims. Despite your statement to the contrary, your basic message is that women should behave, dress, and conduct themselves to avoid attracting the attention of harassers. Is that really any different than the antiquated “she was asking for it” mentality rebranded slightly to be palatable to the modern ear? Women who want to show skin, drink alcohol, talk loud, and party hard deserve exactly as much respect as those who choose not to partake.

    I rarely respond to blog posts simply because it’s worthless to get involved in flame wars with faceless internet people with whom I disagree. However, you seem smart and thoughtful, and despite our radically different worldviews, I thought I might have a fighting at shot changing your mind.

    Would you consider the possibility that your post may be unintentionally advocating for some women to make themselves small to accommodate a culture that is too tolerant of some men’s appalling behavior? Thanks for reading.

  3. prettycran says:

    Amanda, She bent over backwards to make it clear she wasn’t disrespecting anyone’s choices. Make or female. “Making women feel small”?? She is advocating women feel LARGE and POWERFUL!! Take control of your life! Don’t be a victim! This is the message I got out of her post.

    I recently got a flier from my car insurance company giving me safety tips. “Park in well lit areas”, “carry your keys in your hand to your car” “Don’t walk alone when possible, stay in groups, even if they are strangers walk together”. These are ways to lessen your likelihood of getting mugged. Are they a guarantee? Nope! But why not be smart about it? That’s all she’s saying.

    Doesn’t do you a whole lot of good to say “it’s not fair that thieves and assailants are going to rob me! I should be able to walk down the street waving $100 bills if I want to!!” Take a little power back. Use your brain. It might just save you some heartache.

  4. […] recently wrote a Part 1, to which some anonymous stranger wrote an interesting comment.  I had so much to say in reply […]

  5. marriedheat says:

    Nicely stated! Do not apologize for writing this and keep preaching it to the world.

  6. Good post. Well said. I advocate that NO ONE DESERVES TO BE RAPED, but you make valid points that SOMETIMES you have the control of decreasing the chances. Unless you are like me and get raped by a stranger walking home on the sidewalk in casual clothes.

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