Reporting assault, helping victims crucial to fighting rape culture

An alleged sexual assault occurred at Cornell University on Jan. 31, with Psi Epsilon president junior Wolfgang Ballinger arrested and charged with first-degree attempted rape, first-degree criminal sexual act and first-degree sex abuse. Thousands of campus rapes occur each year, yet only a fraction of them are reported—Ballinger’s victim is among the small minority who report their assault. According to court documents, the victim verbally told Ballinger that she was “not interested in him” and was “too intoxicated.”

She did the correct thing in reporting her assaulter, as it led to his arrest. This victim who came forward with these accusations is an example of someone who is actively fighting against rape culture. Every time a sexual assault goes unreported and a rapist gets away with the crime, there is the possibility that it will happen again to a different victim.

Being president of the highly-regarded Cornell fraternity, Ballinger’s name is plastered all over the news. Alongside Ballinger, however, are thousands of others who commit these crimes without receiving the high publicity or the legal consequences.

Ballinger represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexual assaults in college—and the tip of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexual assaults that are reported. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, fewer than half of all female sexual assault victims in college actually report the incident to officials.

A study by the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that the leading reason for unreported sexual assaults is because the victims do not think the crime was serious enough and do not want action to be taken against their offender. With nine out of 10 victims previously knowing their offender, it is not surprising that many feel this way.

The second most popular response was that the victims felt like they would be partially blamed if they reported their offender. Some even said that they were worried about the repercussions of filing a report. Victim blaming plays a large role in rape culture. Drinking too much is not the fault of the victim, nor an excuse for the offender. Rather than placing the blame on the victim, we need to recognize that rape is something that is intentional—we need to hold offenders completely accountable.

In addition to Cornell, the University of Virginia made news last year amidst reports of a fraternity-related gang rape. Additionally, an Indiana University fraternity was suspended after a video depicting a member performing a sexually explicit act on a woman was leaked. News headlines regarding college rapes and sexual assaults have grown monotonous and almost expected at this point. Fraternity rapes are so common that eyebrows aren’t even raised when yet another story hits the news.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women are sexually assaulted in college. This is a statistic that is heard over and over again. One of the biggest issues in dealing with this statistic is the underreporting of rape. When a rape goes unreported, it gives the rapist the ability to continue to do whatever they want to future victims.

Changing the mindset of our society from blaming the victim to holding the offender completely accountable is crucial in encouraging more women to speak out against