For Miss Nevada, Nia Sanchez, Judge Rumer Willis asked a question about sexual assault on college campuses. She asked why Nia thought such crimes have been "swept under the rug for so long" and what colleges can do to combat that. Here is the response from Sanchez:
"I believe that some colleges may potentially be afraid of having a bad reputation and that would be a reason it could be swept under the rug, because they don't want that to come out into the public. But I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself, as a fourth-degree black belt, I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that's something that we should start to really implement for a lot of women."
The reason this response is so cringe worthy is that it completely puts the responsibility on women to prevent rape. In other words: If women are confident, learn self-defense, and fight back- rape will be prevented. On the flip side: If they DON’T fight back, somehow it is their fault that the assault occurred. This is a terrible message and one that goes against everything we know about effective prevention.
Last month I wrote about the White House’s new report “Not Alone” and PSA which focuses on protecting students from sexual assault. They both highlight important strategies for preventing assaults which include:
- Identifying evidence-based strategies for preventing sexual violence
- Developing and evaluating new prevention strategies
- Getting everyone to step in (also known as bystander interventions). Everyone is asked to speak out against rape myths and intervene if someone is at risk of being assaulted.
- Enlisting men as allies
Effective strategies focus on making change at the system-level. They focus on changing a culture (campus or beyond) that accepts sexual violence. They fight against rape myths that include: “she was assaulted because she didn’t fight back”. Unfortunately, the Miss USA pageant provided a huge stage (literally and figuratively) for that myth to be perpetuated. And Nia Sanchez was greatly rewarded for promoting this victim blaming myth- she was crowned Miss USA.