California State University-Chico holds the honor of being decreed the #1 Party School by Playboy in the '80s, and its students have solemnly upheld its reputation as a crazy kegger campus ever since. But if the university's administration doesn't act soon, Chico State might receive a less epic reputation for rampant sexual assaults and lackluster law enforcement.
There's been a spate of attacks on college-age women around campus over the past year that all share creepy similarities — and neither the university nor the town's police department has proved particularly adept at catching the perpetrators. So, naturally, they're focusing on how victims can try not to get raped, groped by men pretending to be police officers, or sprayed in the face with pepper spray.
First, let's talk about what the attackers have in common. Many cases involve women being pulled into cars; four of the ten assaults reported over the past year have involved "newer," nice" black BMW or Lexus cars. Police have received multiple reports of women being attacked with pepper spray. In at least two cases, men pretended to be police officers — one involved two men "wearing dark blue uniforms with silver breast pocket buttons, yellow and blue shoulder patches with 'Police' on them."
Now, the attacked: the majority were alone, either walking or waiting by themselves during the early morning hours. The majority were also drunk. You know exactly what this means: blame the victim!
The way the Enterprise-Record story is reported makes the attacks sound straight out of Animal Planet. "They were vulnerable...and predators took advantage," the reporter frets. And some of the quotes are off-putting:
"It's devastating - sexual abuse is unlike any other crime in the world," Rape Crisis Intervention and Prevention counselor Yvonne Loomis said. "It takes that self away from you. It takes the core."
Not every victim wants to be further victimized by being told she's been forever ruined by an attack.
Sgt. Scott Franssen gave some solid advice based on the assaults: "Don't be by yourself, travel in groups, look out for each other and keep alcohol consumption to a reasonable level so you're less vulnerable." He also told students they should ask for identification from people claiming to be police officers, a good idea based on the ridiculous present circumstances. Loomis added some more advice: watch your drinks, and try and get to know someone before you go home with him or her for the night.
Sure, good, fine. But the school and police department's work really can't end there. University spokesman Joe Wills said he appreciates that police are pursuing the cases: "Maybe people will read this and keep themselves a little safer and hopefully nobody else will have this happen to them," he said. University President Paul Zingg said university staff will continue to educate students on "responsible behavior, common sense and vigilance." But how is the university going to take preventative measures to protect and educate its students before more people are assaulted?
Here are some ideas off the cuff: What about offering and/or publicizing services that make it so students don't have to walk home alone, like shuttles or volunteer escorts? What about holding forums on sexual assault that draw both women and men and educators and students into the discussion? What about assigning more police to patrol the areas where women are being attacked, or working with students on a response system so that the cops can actually start catching these assholes?
Despite the cases' similarities, only one man has been arrested in relation to these assaults over the past year. That's not the fault of the victims; that's the fault of the police. And it's the university's fault for fostering an environment in which students aren't educated about sexual assault, a former Chico student told us. "In retrospect, I was disappointed at how little they talked to students about consent," she said. "It's really hard for young people who are figuring out how sex works to understand what happens in the throes of partying versus incidents you should report."
Come on, Chico State. You can do better for your students than telling them to watch their drinks.
(Image via Chico's Official Website)