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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Combatting rape culture on campus

Zachary Phillips

Colleges never mention sexual assault in their recruiting pamphlets. Graduation rates, sustainability and diversity: these shiny statistics and more can be found front and center on Chico State’s home page.

By the time they have graduated from a five-year college career, one in five women will have experienced some sort of sexual assault. This statistic, provided by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, will never be showcased on the university’s home page.

In light of several semesters scourged by sexual assaults on and off campus, a state auditor has begun reviewing Chico State’s efforts to prevent and address sexual assaults in the community.

Not to say that this audit is a bad thing. It is, in fact, a very good thing. But it doesn’t take a state-funded entity to discern that Chico State’s prevention programs have been missing the mark.

Illustration by Rachel Dugo.
Illustration by Rachel Dugo.

I took part in Safe Start, a program that separates first-year male and female students moving into the dorms and attempts to inform them of the consequences of rape.

The men’s program was led by two male police officers and a male school psychologist. Each spoke of rape with less gravity than a professor speaks of his or her syllabus.

Rape was presented as a rare or nonexistent occurrence. In fact, it seemed that men are often the real victims, wrongfully charged with rape after a night of booze-blurred consensual sex.

The psychologist peppered his speech with all sorts of misogynistic rhetoric. He admittedly seemed more preoccupied with deciding who was sexier, the incoming first-year girls or their mothers, than he was with addressing violence and abuse within the college.

We were assigned sober sex with a “chick” as homework, thus ending Chico State’s heteronormative, misogynistic, rape-culture-reinforcing lesson on rape prevention.

Chico State’s 2011 Safe Start program is indicative of a greater problem — an individualistic society that cares little for the lives of others.

It asserted that rape is inherently bad, not because of the harm it does to the victim, but because of the consequences it can have on the aggressor.

It asserted that rape is not only a rare and often-fabricated occurrence but that it is also something to be joked about at the expense of others.

In the school’s defense, Safe Start has received a facelift since 2011. Students from the current freshman class and the Gender & Sexuality Equity Center have confirmed that the police department now maintains a female presence within the men’s session, which has an unsurprising negative impact on rape jokes and derogation.

A bright home page and glossy pamphlets can only take a college so far. Again, it doesn’t take a state-funded entity to discern the truth. Chico State’s reputation is not one of academic excellence, sustainability or diversity, as the website would have its viewers believe.

It is a reputation built on parties, pornography filmed in fraternity houses and a pat on the back from Playboy.

Changing that reputation and the repercussions it has on students requires more than crass jokes and a female authority babysitting a room full of boys, including her own colleagues.

It requires compassion, respect and the desire to see true justice served.

Zachary Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or @ZachSPhillips on Twitter.

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