HomefeminismWelcome to college! Here’s your target.
(Original image via Unsplash)

You may have already seen this story kicking around about a frat at Old Dominion University hanging disturbing signs from their house for Freshman girls. If you think this is the only university where this happens, you’re wrong.

When taken alone, the signs seem relatively harmless, but the thing is, they’re part of a much larger issue.

Sexual assault is disturbingly common in college. Last year, for instance, our local paper ran a story about the rise in sexual assaults at the University of Minnesota. The article stated that 1 in 5 female college students will be assaulted.

This evening, the local news interviewed a survivor of 2 rapes during her time at the U. They also spent 2 months attempting to get statistics from the college that should have been publicly available. Only about 3% of rape cases were prosecuted, with under 10 perpetrators actually seeing any type of punishment. There was only one expulsion.

Rape is not something rare, and these fraternities use it as a joke.

As a woman who hangs out in the neurodiversity room by the LD snack table, I’m struck by how much scarier these signs make the experience for fellow LD girls going to college the first time.

Going to school away from home is exciting, but there’s always some fear involved. For most students, this is the first time they’ll be living away from their families for an extended period of time. Even though they won’t be living alone, there’s still a lot more independence involved than they’ve ever experienced before.

That’s frightening, especially when you’re already facing the specter of advocating for your own unique educational/environmental needs. Many neurodiverse girls probably realize they’ll be working harder than their peers to keep up with their schoolwork.

That’s on top of the every day challenges of budgeting, finding work, getting around a strange area and figuring out how to feed yourself. I can tell you from experience just how hard that is when you have directional and language problems.

Now, these guys are highlighting the risk of sexual assault and harassment.

“Hi, little girl. I’m one of many resident creepers, and I’m putting a nice, big target on your back! By the way, here’s a drink.”

The signs also normalize and reinforce harmful behaviors in young men. The attitudes of “boys will be boys” and “they’re just having fun” automatically excuses them from showing a basic level of respect to fellow students. It also contributes to the horrible sexual assault statistics above and the prevalence of victim blaming.

Those of us who are angered and disgusted by these signs are told we’re overreacting. When we’re harassed or assaulted, we’re told we didn’t do enough to protect ourselves.

Oh, really? We have complete control over what someone else does? No. We don’t. Standing up for ourselves and demanding basic humanity from these people is a form of fighting back.

In the end, this is less about stifling someone’s sense of humor, and more about the ongoing fight to end rape culture. Victimizing women is not a joke, and it should not be tolerated.

From an neurodiverse and disability standpoint, it’s also about removing a little more weight put on our shoulders and freeing up some more energy to explore our unique strengths. How can LD and neurodiverse female students pour as much energy as they need to into school when they have to constantly look over their shoulders?

This isn’t about who’s “offended” or not. It’s about ensuring a safe environment for all college students to pursue their studies.

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