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'I Won't Feel Safe On My College Campus'


And now we want to take a moment to hear about how the Stanford sexual assault case is resonating with a young person who lives near the university. Youth Radio's Esme Ablaza just graduated from Palo Alto High School. She's been watching the headlines and thinking about what it means as she gets ready to go off to college.

ESME ABLAZA: Even before the Brock Turner case, when I was applying for college last year, I told my mom I only wanted to consider schools with low rates of sexual assault. She looked at me grimly and said, unfortunately, I don't think that would give you many options. I don't know what I'm supposed to do to prepare myself for the fact that I might someday be among the 1 in 5 college women who are sexually assaulted each year.

As a rising college freshman, my excitement at moving away from home and starting a new phase of my life has been tainted by the steady stream of news stories about college rape cases. The most recent case involving Brock Turner happened in my own backyard. In theory, I shouldn't feel a responsibility to do anything. Forget pepper spray, the buddy system and self-defense classes. Potential rapists should be the ones getting trained to not assault their fellow students.

But I have a lingering fear that something horrible could happen to me or a friend, even in the bubble of a college campus. It's especially scary knowing that Turner's victim was living near me at the time of her assault. My friends and I benefited from growing up so close to Stanford. Internships, fun events like dance marathons and Instagram-worthy fountain hopping opportunities abound. Some students from my high school even attend college frat parties.

But what's easy to forget is that sexual assault could happen to us, not just on Stanford's campus, but also on the campuses we'll call home next year as freshmen in college. As a first-year college student, I hope that I'll be able to focus more on making friends and challenging myself academically than worrying about my safety. College administrators must educate the student body on the difference between sex and rape, provide resources for survivors of sexual assault, including guidance with a reporting process, and publicly apologize when rape happens on their campus.

Next year, I hope that I will meet sensible peers who do not feel entitled to the bodies of others, no matter someone's blood-alcohol level or outfit. At the end of the day, public outrage alone won't cure rape culture. I won't feel safe on my college campus until I know that proper justice will be served to anyone who threatens my safety or my peers for the next four years and beyond. And so far, we aren't there yet. For NPR News, I'm Esme Ablaza.

MARTIN: This essay was produced by Youth Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Esmé Ablaza