During the school year, it feels as if we constantly receive crime alerts from UCPD. On January 16 of last year, there were five crime alerts within one hour. People may joke about Riverside being “ghetto,” but the reality of the crime rate here is no joke. At the time of writing this piece, there have been 42 thefts, 22 assaults (including sexual), four robberies and two “other sexual offenses” reported in Riverside within the last two weeks. No wonder Riverside gets the reputation of being unsafe, especially at night. For female UCR students, safety is especially an issue. The Association of American Universities (AAU) recently surveyed 27 colleges and reported that nearly one-quarter of undergraduate female students experience sexual assault. 11 percent of those female students reported that their sexual assault included penetration. Only five percent of the undergraduate males that participated in the survey reported sexual assault.
How are colleges responding to sexual assault? They are responding with mostly one word: “resources.” UCR’s Women’s Resource Center offers support for those who have suffered sexual assault and self-defense classes each quarter. All UCs also have their own version of a place to go to when it comes to sexual assault, but UC Berkeley was the only UC I noticed had a separate section for men on their website. Their website doesn’t yet offer information for men who have experienced sexual assault. With UCR, UC San Diego (UCSD) and UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) having resource centers labeled as for women, it’s not hard to see why male victims of sexual assault are often overlooked.
Another resource UCs are providing is an escort service and/or night transportation. UC San Francisco (UCSF) and UCI’s escort services are run exclusively through their police departments and offer the longest availability, claiming that their escort service runs “24/7” on their websites. We come in first when it comes to our campus escort services closing earliest, with UC Santa Cruz coming in second at 12:30 p.m. Technically, UCR students can get an escort service 24/7 as well, by calling the UCPD as well as the Women’s Resource Center’s Campus Escort Service, but it makes you wonder why our campus escort service closes earliest compared to the other UCs.
To be mindful of campus safety, UCR asks us to remember R.O.A.R, which stands for “Resources, Observe, Act, and Report.” But some acronym isn’t going to make me feel safe.
No, instead UCR needs to focus on the word, “prevention.” The biggest way to prevent sexual assault is to make it less acceptable. “Rape culture” is a familiar term among college students because sexual assault is associated with college. With alcohol consumption and the normalcy of hooking up, it’s bound to happen, right?
But that’s the thing, alcohol consumption and sexual activity isn’t a precursor for sexual assault. You don’t have to be intoxicated to be assaulted. UC Irvine (UCI) provides brochures that dispel some of the myths of sexual assault (the biggest myth buster: it’s not the victim’s fault). We can do that too — perhaps with posters around the school.
The second most important thing to combat sexual assault on college campuses is to make sure that every student understands what consent really means. Consent is beyond yes or no, it’s the assertive yes versus the yeah-I-guess-I-want-to-do-that yes. We need to provide examples of when consent has and hasn’t been used. UCR could do this through sexual assualt guest speakers, movie showings and posters that point out the basics of an enthusiastic yes. Here’s an easy hint — if you have to pester someone into doing something, that isn’t an enthusiastic yes.
UCR could also consider encouraging its students to use the Companion app, which would allow your contacts to virtually track your location through your phone to ensure that you reached your destination safely. Yet, some people, like Alabama Deputy District Attorney Carrie Shaw, believe that it might give users a false sense of security. The app was intended for college students, but is now being used by people worldwide. Although it’s being applauded by users, is it actually a step backwards, like Shaw suggests? I’m guilty of wanting to “tough it out” when it comes to walking alone on the UCR campus at night, but when it comes to a real threat, I think I’d feel better if I have someone with me in person than a mere app. With free escort services on campus, it’s important that college students don’t forsake their safety in the name of convenience.
Don’t walk alone at night:
The point-to point shuttle operates from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm.
After 11:30 p.m., when the Campus Escort Service closes, you can request an escort from UCPD.