April 29 2019
Sexual harassment is not new to college campuses and it seems the struggle is not over for female students all over the world. I started college less than a month ago and I never thought that this would be my story, my reality. I was dead wrong. In the past two weeks, more than 10 students were followed, sexually harassed and even almost sexually assaulted near the Tokyo International University International Dorms. Every day I would log into my dorm’s group chat and be faced with countless messages of girls trying to comfort and warn each other about the dangers of going out alone. The university only took action after a student was severely injured while running away from her perpetrator. All female students living in the dorms were invited to a meeting and received buzzers along with the advice of “try not to expose your body”. Male students were not invited to this meeting, despite the fact that they are affected by this issue as they also reside in the dorms.
As foreign students, we are vulnerable because a lot of us cannot communicate in Japanese Additionally, we later on found out that several incidences of sexual harassment had been reported in previous semesters and that someone had even broken into the female international dorm and been caught on camera. Several students have mentioned that the physical description of the current suspect is exactly the same as the man who had broken into the dorm and had previously been arrested. Not once did the university reach out to us and let us know of these past occurrences. Although, the university website claims that the on-campus accommodations are “safe and comfortable”, it is clearly not the case. A week later, the suspect was arrested and several students confirmed that they had been harassed by him, recognizing his car and license plate number. He was released the very same day.
It is becoming very clear that most university campuses are not equipped with the proper tools to deal with reports of sexual harassment or assault. Not only do most of them blame victims, but their whole strategy also focuses on defense rather than offense. It is never about going against the perpetrator and punishing him but rather about making the victims hide and avoid situations wherein they could be in danger. College is a place where we come to be educated and experience new things, it should not be a place where we live in fear of what could be done to us. What is happening at the National University of Singapore is not an isolated incident. It is happening all over the world, every single day. Young women are silenced and blamed for putting themselves in dangerous situations while their abusers walk free. It took more than six months for third-year communications and new media undergraduate Monica Baey to receive an apology from her university after a male student filmed her showering. She was forced to talk about her violation on social media for the university to take action. It is time for universities to start considering the emotional and physical suffering of sexual harassment and abuse survivors and to take considerable actions against their perpetrators.