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The problem with campus sexual assault prevention workshops

Who benefits from these workshops?

College administrations tend to do a lot of things for which there appear to be no readily apparent reason, but chief among them may be Title IX-inspired sexual assault prevention workshops and symposiums, programs which have become ubiquitous on college campuses in recent years. Most recently, for example Wilkes University hosted an “all-day sexual assault prevention and education training,” the purpose of which was to teach students “sexual assault awareness and consent education, bystander prevention, survivor support and online dating safety.”

Some of these topics, such as supporting those who have been victims of sexual assault, and being cautious when doing online dating, are perfectly reasonable things to teach students in workshops. Yet the proposal that “sexual assault awareness and consent education” somehow constitute a meaningful educational experience is quite frankly bizarre. Do administrators honestly believe that the solution to stopping sexual assault–one of the most perverted, sadistic crimes in human society–is to teach “awareness” about it? Are “consent education” and “sexual assault awareness” really the only thing standing in between rapists and victims?

It is not that these types of programs aren’t well-meaning. It’s that they don’t really mean anything at all. Rapists and sexual criminals aren’t going to care what a campus workshop says about consent; the concept of “consent” itself is absent from a rapist’s moral vocabulary. Nobody honestly believes we can lower the murder rate by teaching people “homicide education.” Why we pretend we can do the same thing with sexual assault is bizarre.

There are educational efforts we might take to better protect potential victims of sexual assault: Teaching women basic and advanced self-defense courses, for one, as well as letting women carry firearms on campus so that they can get to and from home and class safely, particularly at night.

Ruthlessly prosecuting rapists and would-be rapists for their real and attempted crimes would also likely help deter future assaults. Encouraging potential victims to keep themselves safe in unfamiliar and potentially dangerous campus situations is also a good tactic. We should, in other words, try things that would almost surely have a measurable effect on campus sexual assault, rather than silly wastes of time that simply look good on paper but don’t actually do anything.

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