OPINION | Frequent crime alerts create sexual assault desensitization

Mohini Yadav, Contributing Writer

(Ryan Rainbolt)

PING. You hear a notification ring from your laptop. Is it a grade that just got released? An extra assignment? An unexpected test? But it turns out to be something else. Red letters glare at you from the top of the page, “Content warning: The following narrative references an incident of unwanted touching.” Sighing, you delete the message and close your laptop — this report is only one of several Timely Warning Notifications that stain your email each month. 

Four months into my freshman year at Tulane University, I have received six alerts from the Tulane University Police Department. Only one of the six alerts was an event that was not related to a sexual assault report. The emails are no longer jarring; in fact, they are almost expected. As I walk through campus, I wonder why I, as a young woman, am so desensitized to sexual assault? It’s traumatic and life-altering, yet I assume that it is a part of college culture that is expected to be tolerated — even accepted.

The problem is not only the frequency with which these crimes occur on campus but also our generation’s view on sexual assault on college campuses. “It happens!” You hear all the advice as a freshman: “keep your friends close,” “watch your drinks,” “never walk alone at night.” The tips are supposed to protect you, keep you from danger, but the hypocrisy is that there is little push to end the culture, only for women to protect themselves against it.

 Each crime alert is yet another reminder that sexual assault continues to live on Tulane’s campus. The alerts reinforce the chilling reality that the majority of the crimes on campus are directed at women. Whether it be the woman walking outside the library or sitting by the quad, these campus notifications let us know that sexual assault is still an omnipresent threat at Tulane. The core issue is that sexual assault as a part of campus life is normalized as a problem.

A crucial step in reducing these crimes, and the culture at large, is admitting that although sexual assault may unfortunately be a prevalent crime for young adults, it is not normal. Emails of fondling are not normal and becoming a target while walking alone in the afternoon should not be normal. 

In a generation of “Me Too” and roofie-detecting nail polish, women have accepted that sexual assault is a common crime of young adulthood. While we should be careful, it is important to view these crimes for what they are — crimes — not a risk that simply comes with being a woman on a college campus.

 Between campus alerts, rumors of roofies at parties, and the #ithappenedtome, there is a generation of young women who are forced to protect themselves and an institution that accepts the periodic assaults on women

Tulane as an institution needs to do better, not just in warning women to protect themselves against these attacks but in admitting that it is a prevalent issue on campus in the first place. Stricter university policy regarding sexual assault offenses as well as more frequent conversations regarding consent and sexual assault cases on campus would be the first step in the right direction. It’s time to not only listen to the alerts around us but to begin to engage in a meaningful dialogue to prevent them from occurring. 

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