Rape culture isn’t going anywhere

Renee Gomez

UT doesn’t offer much education to prevent sexual assault. Students are required to complete an hourlong, federally mandated online module at the beginning of their freshman year. This module only includes mindless exercises about in-the-moment sexual assault prevention, with barely any talk of consent or bystander advocacy.

All students need to be educated on how to combat the attitudes that create an atmosphere where sexual abuse can be swept under the table and only surface whenever a victim draws attention to the problem, something that should not be their responsibility.

UT should create an additional, required module focused on the norms that contribute to rape culture, such as toxic masculinity, vulgar language, the oversexualization of peers and smaller-scale physical assaults that can snowball into larger problems.

Juliana Gonzales, the senior director of sexual assault services at the SAFE Alliance, knows the sexual assault prevention module UT provides is federally mandated, but says the University can still take independent steps to further the teachings.

“But ultimately, the University has an opportunity to stem sexual assault by creating systems that demand accountability,” Gonzales said. “And the University community has an opportunity to hold up a culture about consent.”

Sexual assault on campus is a systemic problem.

“Because there hasn’t been an active condemnation on campus … then people feel as though they can basically do whatever they want so long as they are not caught,” said Munji Nfor, a public relations freshman and sexual harassment survivor.

Nfor said she feels as though she especially could fall victim to these crimes when she moves to campus. 

“Black women experience it way more than white women, specifically because society has oversexualized the Black body for centuries,” Nfor said. 

Many women fear being alone on campus while walking home from a late-night study session or a football game. The rape culture that is allowed to fester at UT due to a lack of education can be terrifying. 

Zoey Crummey, a government and international relations and global studies senior, is the president of Not On My Campus, a student-led organization that aims to educate students on how to prevent sexual assault. 

“You could go through your four years here never learning anything about consent or the resources available to you,” Crummey said. “Our mission is to end the silence around sexual assault and create a community at UT that’s supportive of survivors.”

Not On My Campus, which was established in 2015, has since heavily aligned itself with the Interfraternity Council at UT, as sexual violence can commonly occur on Greek life grounds.  

Mechanical engineering sophomore Jared Pomerantz, a member of the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, acknowledges the stigmas surrounding Greek life but said he is optimistic about the extent of the problem. 

“Our first priority is to make sure women feel safe in our house,” Pomerantz said. “I’d like to think that everyone else is the same exact way, but unfortunately there are some bad apples.”

However, Sean Tucker, a communication and leadership senior who has been an RA since 2019, said he hasn’t seen much change in fraternities’ attitudes toward sexual violence over time. 

“It’s about the groupthink, it’s about alcohol, it’s all the toxic masculinity wrapped up into Greek life,” Tucker said. “If you just assign an online program, men can just flip their way through and know what you want them to answer.”

To better address rape culture, UT must have a more engaging education module that encompasses all of toxic masculinity and parts of misconduct that are often overlooked.

“It’s demeaning, it’s dehumanizing and it’s incredibly frightening and frustrating,” Nfor said.

I know it’s an uncomfortable topic to talk about, but because it’s difficult to confront, many people never educate themselves on rape culture and sexual assault. The University needs to do more than an easily skippable, 60-minute online module that only talks about heat-of-the-moment prevention instead of early, ongoing prevention. 

Gomez is a journalism freshman from Lewisville, Texas.