She said, He said….


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Reviewers have praised Silent Survivor as a page-turner thriller that deals with several timely issues – among them college rape. Unlike military sexual assault which is unambiguous in the sense that there is generally no issue about whether the sex is consensual, rape among college students often becomes a “she said, he said.”

In 2014, Federal investigators investigated whether 55 colleges and universities in 27 states and in the District of Columbia illegally handled sexual violence and harassment complaints.

A 2015 academic studyreported that during their freshman year of college 15 percent of women are raped while incapacitated from alcohol or drugs.

That’s one of the debate stoppers about rape on campus as too many people today still consider sex with an unconscious drunk girl part and parcel of the college experience.

As part of research for her 2018 book about sex in college  “American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus,” Lisa Wade visited 24 colleges. She describes an accepted culture dominating college campuses that promotes drugs, excessive alcohol imbibing and sexual hookups – a culture that can make it difficult for some to argue against the narrative of girls “asking for it” and boys not being able to control themselves.

As a former Medical Director of Primary Care at UCLA’s Student Health Service in the 1990’s, I can certainly attest to many students feeling undue pressure to drink and have sex even when they preferred not to – especially those in sororities and fraternities.

I had hoped that times had changed. But if Wade is correct about today’s pervasive hookup culture, there is a greater need than ever to have a national debate about ending it.

For those who tend to see ambiguity in the above “she said, he said” situations, no one should doubt the guilt of a former Stanford University swimmer who carried an unconscious women behind a dumpster and sexually assaulted her. His six-month jail sentence produced appropriate national outrage.Equally outrageous, during the trial the defense still found a way to attack the victim’s character, to exalt the perpetrator’s athletic merits, to spin it as  “no big deal”.

According to Wade, in the culture of sex dominating college campuses today, status is what sex is all about and that status gives athletes sexual access.  In her column The Conversation in Business Insider in 2017 she stated that “…athletes are more likely than other students on campus to identify with hyper-masculinity and to accept ‘rape myths’ to justify sexual assaults”.

Again if this is true and my experience on one college campus validates her assertion, then the national conversation we need to have about drinking, drugs and the hookup culture must include discussion about the facts around perceived social status related to having sex with athletes.

In Silent Survivor, I wanted to create subplot that would encourage readers –especially those in book clubs – to open up a dialogue about consent and rape on college campuses, to change attitudes with the hope that in 2018 and going forward “she said, he said” will no longer be ambiguous.

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