Education is an important tool to achieving economic security. Eighty percent of college graduates with a four-year degree are economically secure. Yet this important opportunity is often accompanied by a troubling reality for women – 28.5% of college women reported an attempted or completed sexual assault before or since entering college.
The prevalence of sexual violence on campuses creates a hostile environment for female students, which undermines their ability to take advantage of the same educational opportunities as male students. The impacts of sexual assault can have life-long repercussions on the lives of survivors. This is exacerbated when colleges and universities fail to prevent and appropriately handle cases of sexual assault.
As a result of sexual assault, survivors are often faced with high healthcare costs including care for physical trauma, reproductive health care (if accessible at all) and counseling. Emotional trauma, fear of running into the person who raped them, and/or threats from their rapist result in diminished academic performance. Ultimately survivors may drop out of school, leaving them with debt and poor employment prospects. One study found that the lifetime cost of rape is $145,000 due to health costs, legal fees and lost wages. More information on the economic impacts of sexual violence facing college-aged women can be found in a 2013 brief released by the Economic Security for Survivors Project.
Addressing the prevalence of sexual assault among college aged women is a matter of gender equity. Women who are assaulted face life-long barriers to recovery and economic security.
Last Friday, WOW joined dozens of advocates and leaders in the movement to combat violence against women in the East Wing of the White House where President Obama and Vice President Biden announced a new campaign to address sexual assault on campus as part of continued efforts in response to recent findings from the “Not Alone” report. The new campaign, “It’s On Us”, seeks to prevent sexual violence on campuses by engaging bystanders and making the case that every member of the community has a role to play in creating safer campuses where intellectual growth is accessible to every student. “It’s On Us” asks that everyone be a part of the solution by pledging to (1) recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, (2) identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, (3) intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given, and (4) create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
We are glad to see that the administration is committed to ensuring the safety and equality of opportunity for women. We hope you join us in signing the pledge and becoming part of the solution. #ItsOnUs