It’s That Time of Year Again

This summer, I spent much of my time re-watching one of my favorite and one of the most underrated shows of the last 15 years, Veronica Mars. Due to streaming services, this show was given an opportunity to be resurrected for the second time. Fans of the show financed a movie version of the show in 2014. It’s now continuing as a TV series on Hulu, much to my delight. I was hooked all over again due to the show’s excellent writing and brilliant acting by Kristen Bell playing the show’s namesake Veronica Mars.

The show started off with Mars as a 17-year-old full-time student and part-time detective. She was smart, quick, witty and her life experiences gave her a bit of an edge. One of the things that struck me about the show was how relevant its topics were to what's currently going on in the world. In the very first episode of season one, viewers find out that Veronica was the victim of date rape. You get two seasons in before you find out who her perpetrator was. It turns out her attacker was also a victim of sexual assault as a child.

The rape and utter humiliation of Veronica's peers in college became a major storyline in the third season. The victims were given the date rape drug, raped and then had their hair completely buzzed off by their attackers. It's sickening to think about, let alone watch. But it had me thinking about a recent news report of the rape of a female student at Cal State Fullerton. We’re not even a month into the new school year, and a reported rape occurs. Unfortunately, these assaults happen more often than anyone wants to believe.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network or RAINN, college students are at an increased risk of being sexually violated the first few months of their first and second semesters, with more than 50% of college sexual assaults taking place between August and November. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and 16 men will be raped during their four years in college. More than 90% of the assaults will never be reported.

The third season finds Veronica Mars investigating the campus rapes and questioning what roles fraternities and sororities played in the assaults. Statistics on sororities and fraternities on this issue are particularly alarming. According to the NSVRC, women in sororities are 74% more likely to experience rape than other college women. It gets worse. Multiple studies revealed that fraternity men were three times more likely to commit sexual assault than other college men. And then, about 6% of fraternity students and 9% of non-fraternity men admitted to having committed rape on more than one occasion or have attempted a rape.

While there is more to the Greek system than parties and substances, the evidence of their role in on-campus assaults speaks for itself. One certainly doesn’t have to be in an environment where substances are being consumed to be assaulted on or off-campus, but chances of sexual assaults taking place increase for both the victims and perpetrators when one is impaired. About 64% of male offenders who rape women were using alcohol or drugs prior to the attack.

It's been established that alcohol and drugs are one reason for sexual violence in college, but there has to be more behind why college campuses seem to be cesspools for sexual assault abusers. Something is deeply wrong within our culture. Why do men feel entitled to women and our bodies? And why aren’t our college campuses doing more to protect victims? 

Veronica Mars’ first day of college saw female students protesting against their school for not doing enough to protect their students from sexual assaults. About five years ago, the Justice Department investigated 55 colleges and Universities for possibly mishandling reported sexual abuse cases and ultimately violating Title IX, a 1972 Education Amendment that states colleges who receive federal funding must combat gender-based violence and harassment, and that they must respond to the survivors needs to ensure equal access to education for all students. 

Currently, that law has been tweaked by the Trump Administration, with Betsy DeVos as Secretary for the Department of Education. New regulations have been put in place and protections for the victims have been rolled back, with both the Department and federal investigators lessening their involvement in these cases. In turn, according to experts who spoke to, this is great news for the perpetrators, who will receive protections from campus hearings as well as the school who will not have to face an investigation from the Office of Civil Rights for possibly violating Title IX. It’s disgusting. 

Schools would rather protect men in their fraternities and male athletes, many of which are responsible for sexual violence. According to an analysis by Outside the Lines, college athletes were three times more likely to be named in Title IX sexual assault complaints. The truth of the matter is fraternities, athletic games and alumni bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into these schools. Money and the school's reputation outweighs protections for the victims. As long as the Trump Administration is around, these schools don’t have to worry about the government looking over their shoulders. 

On Veronica Mars, frustrated students egged the Dean's office the same night he ended up dead. I’m not advocating eggings and death, after all, that makes for great TV. Let’s instead join in on speaking up and out to our schools and demand they be held accountable in actually providing the support their students need. With college campuses being hotbeds for rape, students lives depend on all the support they can get.