Sexual assault remains a pervasive problem on college campuses

09/20/2018

By Duke Staff

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the reckoning of long neglected sexual assault accusations at all societal levels continues to grab the headlines and hold offenders accountable. However, nearly a year after the birth of #MeToo, complacency is a threat to its momentum. With recent developments, it’s important to remember that actions at any age have consequences.

Brett Kavanaugh, the current nominee for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, has been accused of sexual assault during his teenage years. As the public battle rages over whether or not he should be confirmed, the dialogue around the accusations is pertinent to all college students.

The reaction to these accusations shocked us, because apparently there is a large number of people out there who believe that teenage actions shouldn’t have major consequences — as if we learned nothing from the lessons of #MeToo. In serious cases like this, anyone who believes that 17-year-olds aren’t cognizant of what they’re doing clearly hasn’t met a teenager or college student.

Other examples, like the 2012 rape in Steubenville, Ohio, come to mind as an instance where swaths of the public were ready to write off credible accusations because the boys “didn’t know what they were doing” or that the victim made it up for attention.

Even after two Steubenville boys were found guilty, a CNN anchor mourned that it was “incredibly difficult … to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart.”

Quotes like this seek to absolve abusers and rapists because of their age, but at what point does that stop? Do people magically realize assaulting someone is wrong at a certain age? Unequivocally, no. The importance of consent is found in the well-established lessons of right and wrong taught by parents, schools and practically all of society throughout all stages of life. Excuses for being “too young to understand” just don’t make sense. Credible accusations and convictions for sexual assault crimes should be taken seriously, no matter the age of the accuser at the time of the assault.

This is not a “whoopsie” like underage drinking, marijuana use or other comparatively minor offenses. Sexual assaults are life-altering events that often do irreparable harm to the victim(s). #MeToo is not a passing fad, and we should not allow it to be.

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