THE BLOG

Rape and Murder Are Not Acceptable Campus Behavior

01/12/2014 09:40 GMT | Updated 30/01/2015 10:59 GMT

While the world seems to be spinning out of control with ISIL perpetrating its medieval barbaric acts, Assad's Syria devolving into an unsolvable mess, Putin pushing his way through to new frontiers and Iraq and Afghanistan barely holding it together, it is still hard to ignore what is going on right here in the good old USA.

This week we learned that gang rape and rape in general are part of normal life within the fraternity systems at some of the most prestigious universities in America.

The focus this time is on the prestigious and hollowed University of Virginia founded by America's third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.

Unfortunately this university is not alone in this distinction, as sexual violence on American campuses is becoming a national concern as it is in the UK and worldwide.

With the recent murder of the University of Virginia student Hannah Graham and the newly disclosed revelations relating to the rape of several young women at this same school in Charlottesville, Virginia, perhaps its time to examine a college campus culture that has been overlooked for a very long time.

Unfortunately, it had to take a Rolling Stone magazine article and the subsequent student campus protests to actually focus the leadership of the university and the American public on this insidious and growing epidemic.

Sadly, when the so called authorities did focus on the 'rape on campus' issue that focus centered on whether or not the students who committed these criminal acts should have been suspended and whether or not the "Greek fraternities" system should be eliminated.

It took a while for those 'in charge' to treat this issue with the attention it merits - Rape is a very serious crime. The proper authorities were finally called in to investigate.

What message does condoning this sort of behavior as a childish prank or transgression send to our young people?

How did we, as a so-called cultured society, get here in the first place is a question many parents are asking?

A spot at one of the top universities in the US like UVA is not easy to attain and does not come cheaply.

It typically requires a lifetime of sacrifice from parents to get their offspring into one of these revered institutions.

And yet it seems that although the best and the brightest are selected through a vigorous and competitive process there is clearly some element of emotional maturity which very well might be in short supply.

In today's often frantic-paced and sometimes violent world these pre-university children do not play freely without parental supervision as generations before them did.

They are driven to play dates and other supervised activities - monitored from sun up to sun down by their watchful parents, nannies or guardians.

A sign of the times perhaps and clearly understandable in a world where children disappear in a split second and without a trace.

These young people - not quite adults - may in fact have never been truly on their own and responsible or in charge of themselves until they head off to the university and college far far away from the protective nest.

And what a heady and shocking experience this must be for them!

This is the first time no one is watching their every move. No one is telling them how to budget or control their money or their time. Most importantly no one is monitoring their behavior or their reputation.

This is a generation bombarded by music and images that glorify bad behavior and the disrespect and violent mistreatment of women.

Actors, performers, artists, musicians and star athletes seem to be setting bad examples for the very youth who worship them and emulate their lifestyles, while they pay little or no price at all for their anti-social behavior and abuse of their girlfriends, spouses and children.

This is also the first totally internet-reliant generation where direct social face to face interaction is new to mnay of these incoming college students.

Being on your own means being part of a new, undiscovered sometimes frightening community where being subject to peer pressure and the need to fit in is a constant challenge.

It is under these circumstances where a well-meaning parent, not wanting to suffocate, gives their child just a little extra freedom - sometimes beyond their ability to cope.

It also seems that under these circumstances it is very easy for one error of judgement to lead to dire consequences.

Take the case of Hannah Graham, a young second year UVA student who apparently attended a party with friends, had far too much to drink, left a party without her friends and found herself alone and vulnerable - the perfect target for her stalker, and eventual murderer laying in wait.

Peer pressure, wanting to "fit in" and bad judgement might explain why she drank too much but it does not explain why she was on her own.

Where were her friends? Why didn't one of them stop her from going off on her own?

Was she really mature enough to be out that late in an unfamiliar part of town and on her own?

The same questions arise again when it comes to the 'rape on campus' stories of the Greek fraternity lifestyle.

In each of these cases there is a young woman who either drinks too much to fit in with the crowd or is given drugs to impair her judgement without her consent.

It is important here to note that these young women have misjudged their own ability to handle these potentially dangerous situations and of course there will always be someone there just waiting to take advantage.

From this point the sickening story is much the same. The female student finds herself alone and unable to protect herself from the horrible and violent act and sometimes acts of rape.

Again where are the voices and presence of her friends - both male and female - who understand right from wrong, who are not criminals?

Why are they silent? After all, those who watch this awful act and remain silent are just as concerning and willfully responsible as those who actually commit the crime of rape.

Is the power of peer pressure so intense that they dare not challenge this truly unacceptable behavior?

Are we after all not our brothers and sisters keeper? Is this is not what it means to live in a civilized society?

In the 60s and 70s students were often required to live on campus under adult supervision- there were 'rules of the house' and they were enforced.

Limiting drinking or eliminating fraternities entirely are unlikely to have the desired affect. They are more likely to send these unacceptable activities underground - off campus.

What is needed here is some serious parental involvement, not just lip service - making sure your children - that's right they are your 'children' - know right from wrong and that they have the self-confidence and courage of their conviction to stand up for what is right and to be able to withstand peer pressure and do what makes sense for them.

A student's time at a university is a time to be educated, to learn skills for a future profession, a time to expand mind and intellect, a time to experiment, blossom and grow and a time to become a responsible adult.

Question, how far we have come? What would Thomas Jefferson founder of this august educational institution The University of Virginia think about this crisis?

Jefferson believed it was up to the adults of the current generation to set the example for the next: "The boys of the rising generation are to be the men of the next, and the sole guardians of the principles we deliver over to them."

President, Governor, Regent, Dean, professor, parent, young woman or young man, there is a universal lesson for all of us in Mr. Jefferson's words.