“We know the numbers: one in five of every one of those young women who is dropped off for that first day of school, before they finish school, will be assaulted.” These are the words of United States Vice President Joe Biden.
According to a White House study, his words ring true. One in five women will experience sexual assault during their time in college.
In the United States, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that between 1995 and 2013, college women experienced an average of about 31,000 cases of sexual assault annually. Of these, about 18,000 were cases of completed or attempted rape.
The U.S. has taken measures to address these crimes.
Federally funded universities are required to report instances of sex offenses due to the Jeanne Clery Act.
Title IX, of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972, requires that federally funded educational institutions have grievance procedures in place to report sexual harassment.
Beyond legal measures, The White House recently released the campaign It’s On Us. Its goals are to help people recognize assault and intervene when consent hasn’t or cannot be given. The campaign has used celebrities and corporate partners such as social media platforms Snapchat and Tumblr, among others, to reach its college demographic.
But sex crimes exist far beyond the boundaries of university campuses.
They are global problems.
In India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, almost 25,000 rape cases were reported across India in 2012.
Instances of rape occur every day in India. The latest estimates suggest that a new case of rape is reported every 22 minutes.
In 2012, one now infamous case has spurred India’s government to pass new laws to punish convicted rapists.
NPR International reported that a 23-year-old female student, who was traveling with a male friend, was assaulted on a bus in New Delhi. She was gang raped, thrown from the bus and later died from internal injuries.
Four men were convicted of her rape and murder. They were sentenced to death.
In reaction to protests following this attack, BBC reported that new laws increased penalties for those convicted of rape. Gang rape now carries a minimum sentence of 20 years.
However, in India, the conviction rate is only 27 percent.
Stephanie Jarvis, information specialist at The India Center at UCF, spoke of the inherent problem of having such a low conviction rate:
Statistically, a rape happens every 30 minutes in India, but the thing is that the conviction rate is I think like 25 percent, so these men might be brought in, but the conviction rate is so low, there is not, that 75 percent of men that aren't convicted, it's kind of showing that you'll probably get away with it.
Jarvis acknowledged that India’s culture is rooted in conservative values, and these place a higher importance on men.
In order to inspire change in a traditionally patriarchal country, India has developed its own initiatives for social change.
Breakthrough is an organization that works in India to make sexual assault of all forms unacceptable, and they use media, education and partnerships to enact this change.
Vogue India’s Vogue Empower campaign aims to bring awareness to the oppression of women in India as well as how boys are raised, in order to target a root cause of violence against women.
These social movements are necessary to stir up a discussion that no one wants to have.
At UCF, Counseling and Psychological Services held a forum to discuss campus sexual assault. No one attended.
In order to facilitate these conversations, popular culture movements are needed.
Chelsea Daley, a UCF political science senior, is the president of College Democrats at UCF, which organizes an annual event to combat campus sexual assault. The Slut Walk, as it’s called, rallies around the idea that women should not be further attacked by victim blaming.
"I feel like it’s an issue that no one wants to talk about," Daley said. "It’s an issue that needs to be talked about, but of course, no one wants to talk about it, mainly because of victim blaming. If you are a victim of sexual assault, you may feel shamed for that even though it’s not your fault, you may still feel like someone will judge you for it."
Victim blaming is a universal concept. In the Delhi gang-rape case, a defendant claimed in his defense that no decent woman would be out alone at 9 p.m.
Instead of blaming, UCF police’s public information officer Courtney Gilmartin suggests acting:
“Bystander intervention is huge. I mean, like I said, we know that so many of these scenarios involve people who know each other and alcohol. People that know each other and alcohol, normally those situations also involve other people. There are other people who are there who could step in.”
Stephanie Jarvis also spoke of the need for intervention and change on a global scale:
This is something that I think is a worldwide crisis, not just something that is here, not just something in India. It’s a worldwide crisis that we have to deal with as a population of people in general.
At the end of the day, we’re all responsible to create a safe environment around the world. As the White House’s campaign suggests, it’s on us.
How will you make a positive impact?
About This Project
Journalism students at UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Apeejay Stya’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Gurgaon, India, joined forces to spotlight a heinous crime that afflicts both American and Indian society: sexual assault. Under the direction and collaboration of their professors, Rick Brunson at UCF and Pervaiz Alam and Malvika Kaul at Apeejay Stya, the students produced a multimedia, multinational story package that aired on Appejay Stya’s campus radio station and was published on the Nicholson School’s Centric magazine website. It is our hope that this project raises awareness, informs and empowers students and prevents future rapes. We would love to hear what you think about this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation about this issue on our Facebook page.