I recently read Jon Krakauer’s book MISSOULA, rape and the justice system in a college town, and I have to say it is a must read for anyone planning on sending their kids off to college. Krakauer details several, real life, acquaintance rape scenarios as detailed by the young women – victims, followed by the actions or lack of action by the court system. He also, correctly, labels the offenders as being “self entitled”.
Why is this relevant to us? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, our children don’t stop being our kids when they turn 18 and go off to college. Next, in Beyond Stranger Danger we talk a lot about child molesters being rapists, not pedophiles. These rapists will assault any victim of opportunity, no matter what the age. But most importantly, for offenders, a college campus is one giant pipeline.
In Missoula there is an interview with an offender, who, in great detail, explains how he targets young girls who are new to the campus, and invites them to attend an upcoming party at an off-campus location. During the week the offender narrows his attention to the girl(s) who are away from home for the first time and are apprehensive about fitting into campus life. The offender assures the girl(s) that the party will be fun, and implies that it is a safe event for them to attend. When the girl(s) arrive at the party, the offender quickly offers them a lot of alcohol, which the girl(s) feel obligated to drink. Once drunk, he takes one of the girls to his room, where she cannot fend off his advances.
In the book the offender is very candid, stating that if he needed to hold the girl down or forcibly remove her clothes, in order to get what he felt he deserved, well, then that was “okay”.
The girls, for a variety of reasons, including low self esteem, question themselves and ask, “Was I really raped?” Many never report the crime.
Remember what a pipeline “is”; it’s a way to attract a large number of potential victims to a location/person. Then, via a selection process, the more vulnerable candidates are selected, aka groomed, then pulled into the pipeline. In the college campus version they are plied with alcohol to the point that any attempt to resist is futile.
The college offender views himself as being entitled to “score” with as many girls as possible. After all, for him this is part of his college experience, and therefore he sees nothing wrong with using alcohol and a little force to get what he wants. But make no mistake about it, this offender is without a doubt a rapist, using only enough force and/or alcohol-drugs, to capture his prey.
In Missoula, the author describes what he sees as a failure on the part of law enforcement and the courts to take proper action in this type of case. He adds that law enforcement needs additional training in the area of sexual assaults, including acquaintance rape. I agree about the training. My first book was directed to a law enforcement audience and designed to improve the victim and offender interviewing process. It was also designed to aid in identifying which type of sex offender was involved. That being said, prosecuting this type of case is very difficult. Also, increasing the number prosecutions will have a very limited effect on reducing this type of assault.
Prevention does not lay in filing criminal charges in cases that cannot be won in court. In fact, the prosecutor’s office has an ethical duty not to file criminal charges if there is only a 50/50 chance of winning. In order to insure that the office – powers of the prosecutor’s office are not abused, a case needs to be closer to a 95/5 percent chance of resulting in a guilty verdict, before charges can be filed.
Prevention starts at home. In Beyond Stranger Danger we spend a lot of time detailing the need for a strong connection between parents and their children. Fill them up with self esteem. That way they won’t feel the need to drink themselves silly, just to fit in. We can’t continue to be ‘helicopter parents’, raising kids without a social radar, aka being street smart, then send them off to school, often times 3,000 miles away and assume that they will be “fine”. Also, we cannot assume that going to the same school with “that nice neighbor boy, that has known our daughter since kindergarden” will mean that the neighbor boy will protect her. Trust me, he’s a guy! He will want to have sex with your daughter. Your daughter needs to know this.
As parents we tell our kids, especially our daughters, that they can not go down the dark alley or walk home alone after dark. We also need to tell them not to trust some ‘nice boy’ at the fraternity party. This is not an infringement on their right to experience college life. It’s common sense, and common sense starts at home, at an early age.