BOSTON (CBS) — The early release of convicted sex offender and ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, along with recent media interviews in the Owen Labrie rape case, have put the spotlight back on student sexual assault.
At college campuses across the nation, a new semester raises old concerns.
Becky Lockwood, Associate Director of Counseling and Rape Crisis Services at UMass Amherst, has been working in the field for 15 years and is frustrated by the lack of progress.
“It sounds obvious, but it keeps happening. We haven’t as a culture committed to eradicating it,” Lockwood said. “Research indicates one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their college experience.”
“Alice”, a junior at UMass, recalls moving to the university as a freshman.
“The first day that I moved on campus, one of the fraternities had, like, a sign that said drop your freshman daughters here, or something like that, and I just found that so disgusting,” she says.
How tough has it been for her to navigate campus life?
“I liked the dorms, I mean in general it was pretty fun and it was nice to live with other people, but in terms of like, the rape culture, it’s definitely very pertinent,” she said. “I didn’t see anything personally happen, but you know, living with 80 other people on a floor you hear things in passing or your hear guys sitting in their room making jokes about women.”
“Alice” admits there is drinking, and occasionally, binge drinking.
Lockwood says there is a lot of misconceptions about college life and not everyone participates in the drinking. She tells students they have a lot of choices and is encouraged by one change over the past 15 years, a development she calls a sea change.
“There are a lot more conversations happening about sexual violence and that the resources are better equipped, that folks from the Dean of Students Office to some of the police departments to residents life staff are better equipped now than they were 25 years ago to deal with a disclosure,” she says.
Some who have experienced the horror of sexual assault are helping to drive the change in culture. Like Nicole Corning.
It’s taken 26 years for Corning to come forward.
“You can’t fathom that that’s really what happened because you’re saying to yourself, no, no, its someone I knew, so it doesn’t count,” she recalls. “It just, having to tell your parents, having to tell my husband who I’d never told, it was incredibly awful.”
Corning is a financial advisor and mother of two boys, ages 9 and 11. They live in Arizona, but she grew up in an affluent community outside of Boston. She says at 16, she was raped at a party by someone inside her circle of friends.
“It was so unexpected and I blamed myself for so many years and buried that so deeply,’ she says. But the Brock Turner case unearthed that memory.
“I felt really really strongly that sometimes you just need to be the person that takes that hurt, takes that pain, so you can help other people and that’s really, that’s really what I was trying to do,” she says.
Corning has written a book about motherhood called “The Working Mommy’s Manual” and has a blog by the same name. She says she put her rape story on her blog to drive home the importance of dialogue.
“When I read the letter that Brock Turner’s father had written, I said to myself, you know, as parents, we are part of the problem, we need to step up our game and have those difficult conversations with our children,” she said.
Lockwood agrees with Corning. UMass Amherst has launched an online prevention education course on sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence. It’s a 45 minute program that is mandatory for incoming freshman and transfer students and must be completed by the end of the fall semester.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mary Blake reports