Sexual assault is a moral evil. This is clear from the teaching of Jewish and Christian Scripture and from the voice of human conscience. It is an assault on the dignity and privacy of the person, a warping act that, whether committed against an adult or child, does violence to body, soul, and mind.
According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20 percent of women report “rape at some time in their lives.” And about one in 20 women report having experienced “sexual violence other than rape.”
In few arenas does sexual assault occur as frequently as in university life. “One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college,” according to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. So, the Task Force has put together a long and thoughtful list of recommendations to combat sexual predation in college.
Most, if not all, of these recommendations are welcome. For example, the White House study finds that “getting bystanders to step in and help is a promising practice,” and says that the Department of Education will be “providing more clarity on schools’ legal obligations.”
Yet no formulae, programs, agenda, policies, regulations, or laws can address the foundational issues involved in this kind of wrongful behavior.
It has become one of our cultural defaults to look to government rules and external codes to modify gross misbehavior. Laws can help, but they cannot heal nor can they change a heart. What can? Consider, first, the causes of sexual violence: