Sexual violence continues to persist in our modern world

Milla Impola

The fatal and tragic gang rape in New Delhi continues to draw worldwide awareness to the role governments, communities and individuals must play to end sexual violence. Whether an unwelcome sexual gesture, a sexual encounter fueled by alcohol or rape, the issue of sexual violence can no longer be witnessed with indifference and flippancy. 

“We have to change ourselves. If there are no changes, then these horrible things won’t stop. The public has to wake up now,” the father of the victim in New Delhi told ITV, a British television network.

As the story in India continues to garner international attention and protesters call on the Indian government to take active responsibility to prevent sexual violence, we too should look at our own schools, neighborhoods and communities and how we handle similar issues. 

Nicholas Kristof, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, compared the tragic rape in India to events across the world — such as the football players in Steubenville, Ohio, who were recently accused of repeatedly raping an unconscious girl — saying “gender violence is one of the world’s most common human rights abuses.”

When it comes to sexual assault, one cannot view the tragedy unfolding in India as a geographically isolated occurrence. Gender-based violence and sexual assault occur in our own neighborhood: allegations were brought against two UT football players just before the Valero Alamo Bowl in late December. Although The Daily Texan reported Monday that a statement made by Jordan Hicks’ attorney claimed the investigation had closed and that no charges would be filed, the story highlights that the issue of sexual violence is not just India’s – it’s ours too.

In October 2012, UT researchers Carin Perilloux, Judith Easton and David Buss released findings from a study titled “The Misperception of Sexual Interest” on the negative consequences of rape and attempted sexual assault in 13 domains of psychological and social functioning. Perilloux stated in a press release that the “findings document that victims of sexual assault, and even victims of attempted sexual assault, suffer psychological and social costs more far ranging than previously suspected.”

Because college campuses are often places where inhibitions disappear and decisions are rendered blurry by alcohol, it is important to discuss rape prevention on a campus-wide level.

On the UT campus, the group Voices Against Violence empowers students to negotiate sex and consent, and to navigate the world of boundaries and safety. Groups like this help shape the narrative around the issue of rape to recognize that we all play a role through our conversations and actions in preventing the occurrence of sexual violence.

Part of the solution is to enable males to become active agents in creating a culture free from sexual violence. Organizations such as Men Can Stop Rape are at the forefront of this movement. Through college programs and awareness campaigns, Men Can Stop Rape calls on men to “redefine masculinity and male strength as part of preventing men’s violence against women.”

Only through our collective efforts can we foster a world in which the bystanders in Steubenville would not have idly witnessed the assaults occur and a world where even one of the perpetrators in the gang rape in New Delhi would have stopped to consider the cruelty and tragic lack of respect for human rights unfolding in front of his eyes. 

Published on January 16, 2013 as "Indian rape case opens eyes to sexual violence".