The Real Threat to our Daughtersby Andrea Simantov June 27, 2016
The extensive media coverage and moral outrage regarding federally mandated transgender public school bathrooms qualify as possibly the most absurd culture-war, a non-issue, the distraction of all distractions. Consider the fact that approximately one percent of the United States population under the age of 18 identifies as transgender. Should the infinitesimally remote possibility of our daughters being exposed to a transgender kid’s private parts in a girls’ bathroom keep us up at night? Not even close. As a parent, I worry about a lot of things in the wee hours but transgender bathrooms don’t even register in my fret parade.
Where’s the moral outrage about the real threat to our daughters – the national epidemic of sexual assault on high school and college-aged girls? After reading acclaimed journalist Peggy Orenstein’s well-researched new book “Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape” and watching “The Hunting Ground,” Academy Award-nominee Kirby Dick’s 2014 documentary film about campus rape culture, this underreported problem reached my fret list top 10 in a hurry. Both “Girls & Sex” and “The Hunting Ground” highlight the statistic that (by conservative estimate) one in five young women will be sexually assaulted while in college.
The book and film sparked some hair-raising discussions with 22-year-old Oldest Daughter and her college friends. They shared a couple of first-hand accounts: a Pitzer College student was “roofied” (slang for when someone slips the date-rape drug Rohypnol into a beverage) by a student from Claremont McKenna College (CMC) at a party during her freshman year, causing her to pass out. Fortunately, two friends found her before the perpetrator did, and dragged her back to the safety of her dorm. Another young woman relayed a story of her sophomore year, when a CMC student forcibly pulled her out of a dorm party and into a computer lab where he tried to rip off her clothes. She screamed and escaped her attacker. Neither female reported these incidents – typical in light of the statistic that only 20 percent of victims report campus sexual assaults because they feel embarrassed, blame themselves and/or fear making a bad situation worse.
My daughter, who just graduated from Pitzer, and her friends, also told me about one case this spring where the victim didn’t get away. A Pitzer College freshman was sitting on the outskirts of a party at CMC when a guy she knew from class offered her a drink. Several hours later, she awakened disrobed in his CMC dorm room and realized she had been drugged and raped. She wrote a detailed account of the attack and anonymously submitted it to the editor of Pitzer’s online student newspaper “The Peel.” Her account created an outpouring of support. Local police brought drug-sniffing dogs onto CMC’s campus and arrested the probable perpetrator for narcotics possession. Hopefully, if the anonymous young woman comes forward and files a formal report, he’ll also be held accountable for rape.
As much as we’d like to put our parental heads in the sand, we have to educate ourselves about campus sexual assault. We must empower our daughters to report these crimes and advocate for campus accountability to ensure perpetrators will be punished.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I used to believe the risk of girls being roofied was exaggerated. How could there be that many bad-apples out there? Now I know up-close and personal that the threat is real.
Please stay tuned next month for a discussion of resources dealing with campus sexual assault – just in time for sending your kids off to college!