Monday, July 23, 2012

After Penn State, what next for America?

by Gregory Allen

Penn State's sex abuse scandal takes a step toward concluding and disappearing from the media spotlight with the NCAA's decision to levy substantial penalties against the university. According to the Associated Press and The Huffington Post, the punishment includes a $60 million dollar fine (representing one year of football revenues), and that "These funds will go to child sex abuse awareness programs."

The punishment also includes "a postseason ban, and loss of scholarships and previous wins" as well as placing Penn State on a five-year probationary period "with the NCAA reserving the right to implement further punishments." The sex scandal and the punishment has garnered Penn State significant media coverage, not unlikely connected to the case's proximity with the popular football program.

Penn State can now begin taking steps forward to correcting problems of sexual abuse on campus, but what steps will other American universities take going forward? Penn State University is not the only American campus dealing with significant sexual abuse, as Crisis Connection reports a rape is committed on an American college campus every 21 hours.

Media obsession fell on Penn State and its punishments, but rape and sexual abuse and violence on college campuses remains a larger, more frequent problem. Feminist.Com supplies the following:
  • The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study estimated that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experience completed or attempted rape during their college years (Fisher 2000).
Other statistics indicate that one in twelve college men admit to completing or attempting rape, 47% of college rape victims also suffer external physical injuries, of college women who are raped only 10% report the attack, and 90% of all college rapes occur under the influence of alcohol. 

Also disturbing is the lack of prosecution for those who commit rape; according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) only 9% of rapists face prosecution, and a mere 3% of rapists ever spend a single day in jail. 97% odds of evading jail time are not significant enough to deter sexual violence.

Even Penn State University's Center for Women Students lists the following on their website, "Rape is a significant problem on college campuses across the nation, where most victims are acquainted with their assailants. At Penn State approximately 100 students sought assistance for sexual assault during the 1996-97 academic year."

While the punishments and consequences given to Penn State are a significant and appropriate reaction to the traumatic and poorly responded to sexual abuse experienced there, media and popular attention should not drift into apathy until another serious case emerges. 

A welcome reflection in the conclusion of Penn State's case includes considering the problems of college sex abuse across all college campuses. Serious questions should arise, as Penn State is not alone in dealing with sexual violence. 

What steps will American's take to change the culture and environment that allowed these horrific acts to occur? What will be done to create a better college environment? Will alcohol abuse on campus, the lack of prosecution, or other contributing or non-deterring factors be corrected?

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