By Olivia Gillespie
You might think that, as horrible and painful as a rape may be, it only lasts for one night. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course, we all know that a rape of any kind, at any place will have terrible, long-lasting effects on the psychological well-being of the victim which will inevitably have a detrimental impact on their social life, their ability to trust others, and on their relationships with loved ones. However, if an individual is raped or sexually violated on campus, there is a risk that their professional lives, as well as their future education, could take a drastic hit.
In Michaelmas 2015 I attended a talk by two of the founders of End Rape on Campus, Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino, in Castle’s Great Hall and found myself completely taken aback when I learned of the extent to which a rape can disturb a victim’s education and future career prospects. Clark and Pino explained that they used Title IX to challenge US universities to handle claims of sexual violence responsibly and with respect for the victim. Title IX, one of the Education Amendments to the US Constitution in 1972, states that ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance’; the two co-founders of EROC explained that student victims of campus rape are at a huge risk of dropping out of their course and also argued that universities who allow this to happen are violating this Amendment and therefore breaking US Law.
The two campaigners and sexual-violence survivors then enlightened us of the terrifying consequences for victims of campus rape: they reminded us that if a rape victim drops out of their university or college course, it is likely that they’ll never return to higher education and therefore will be unable to develop their professional career, making them significantly more economically disadvantaged because of the sexual violence they suffered.
Fortunately, in our society and media we are seeing increasing coverage of incidents of sexual violence and more conversations on the subject. We always hear about the psychological and physical damage caused by a rape, but we are rarely told about the economic implications that a rape can have on a victim which are life-long, and could potentially lead to impoverishment.
Although Title IX does not apply to us here in the UK, there is a lot to be learned from this approach to combating sexual violence on campus and holding universities to account. We need to realise that rape, as well as having a terribly detrimental effect on the mental, emotional and physical health of a victim, could also deny them of their right to education and cast them into a life of inequality, and possibly even poverty. No one deserves to have their education and professional prospects taken away from them and universities have a duty to their students to ensure that they are able to thrive in their education in security, and that means dealing with sexual violence claims quickly and efficiently, respecting victims, and providing them with the appropriate support. What’s more, we need to continue having these conversations in the media and in society, to show our solidarity with victims of sexual violence and to help them to feel comfortable to continue their education and to ask for the support they need from their university and their peers.