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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Sexual assaults on college campuses

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Feb 11, 2014 3:37 PM

What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, February 12, 2014:

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The numbers are alarming.  A report last month from the White House Council on Women and Girls  found that one in five women are sexually assaulted on college campuses, but only one in eight students report it. 

The report stated "No one is more at risk of being raped or sexually assaulted than women at our nation's college and universities."  

In response, President Obama appointed a task force to make recommendations for colleges to prevent and respond to report of crime, increase public awareness of each school's track record, and enhance coordination among federal agencies to hold schools accountable if they don't confront the problem.

The report suggested most sexual assaults are occurring at parties and are often precipitated by drinking or drug use.  Sometimes, victims are incapacitated.  Most of the time, victims know the person who assaults them.

Many victims feel like their reports are not taken seriously or investigated properly. 

Wednesday's Smart Talk features an examination of sexual assaults on college campuses and what is being done to fight it.

Appearing on the program are Kristen Houser of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape; Melissa Skolnick, who was sexually assaulted on a Pennsylvania campus and who now is active in educating the public; and Alison Kiss and Abigail Boyer of the Clery Center for Security on Campus.

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape has a network of 50 rape crisis centers serving all 67 counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The coalition helps to provide quality services to victims of sexual violence and creates public awareness and education.  For more information, visit their website at or call 1-888-772-7227.

Resources available for Penn State students can be found by visiting  and

The Clery Center for Security on Campus provides advocacy, education and training, and policy.  More information can be found by visiting or by calling 1-484-580-8754. is another available resource for empowering students to stop sexual violence.

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From Left to Right: Kristen Houser of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and Melissa Skolnick, Penn State Student and Activist


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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-02-12 09:23

    Carol emails:

    This may be for another Smart Talk but please address the added problem of assault of students by professors.
    This problem may be even more
    underreported than student/student assault.

  • Lisa img 2014-02-12 09:31

    In addition to changing the culture of blaming the victim, we also need to stop treating victims as if they are "ruined". Why is it that we treat rape victims so differently than someone who is simply beaten, robbed, etc. It is something that has simply happened and does not mean that person is no longer worthy of love, admiration, etc. Our culture needs to focus instead on the perpetrator and make that individual a pariah. I remember being told in high school that it might be better to fight to the death than be raped. At the time I even thought that was a ridiculous stance to take. Our culture needs to get to the point that we know that rape does not devalue the victim, it devalues the perpetrator.

    • DangerousDiscussion img 2014-02-12 19:14


      From the standpoint of your future dating prospects, a woman that has been violently raped carries a certain amount of emotional baggage that does affect her future relationships. You may be especially sensitive to certain behaviors that remind you of your experience; if your attacker caressed you a certain way at some point during the attack, for example, or used a certain turn-of-phrase during your experience. Men that you date, subsequent to the attack, must be sensitive to such sensitivities, even though they may not be aware if them - and that can be daunting. Many men are simply not up to the challenge, and would rather date women who they are not at risk of accidentally injuring, in this way.

      Date-rape is a different challenge. Because the rape accusation was made against someone that was previously dated - and because such rape accusations are nearly impossible to defend against, even if nothing happened at all - future dating becomes a minefield. Did the other guy really do something out of line, or is that just her side of the story? Does she make this accusation when she gets angry or disappointed or doesn't get her way? Your prospective date cannot really discuss what happened with the date-rapist and still maintain any sort of relationship with you, so he must fully accept your description as the unmitigated truth - and even violent sexual assault victims often spend the rest of their lives questioning their own responsibility for what happened. This gets especially difficult, when the accusation has been made against more than one previous date.

      Men do not easily recover from any accusation of rape, whether or not it results in a trial or conviction. It radically changes how we interact with women in the future, and - particularly if it is done publicly - it radically changes the way that women interact with us (as well as the quality of women that do so - and that statement is intentionally open to wide interpretation). As much as a date-rape victim may question herself and her role in what happened; so does the man - and anyone who hears about it. Most men have no desire to experience a rape accusation, and most men do not want to rub salt on the wounds of a woman that has been raped - but there isn't a "safe" way to be intimate with someone. Exposing your most private self to someone else, makes you vulnerable - and if you are doing so with someone that takes advantage of that vulnerability, it feels the same, whether they do so by rape, or by accusation of rape. It feels as though I should point out again, that I'm not talking about the dragged-into-aback-alley-beaten-and-raped variety, here, but rather the drunken-party-woke-up-with-the-wrong-person variety (which only ever seems to apply to women).

      A woman that has been raped, whether violently or otherwise, may not be ruined - but she is probably damaged by the experience. Men who choose to date such a woman step into a minefield, and risk similar damage. And you have to question the motivations of a man who chooses to do so... particularly if it is a pattern of behavior. Who seeks out rape victims to be intimate with, and why? The possibilities that occur most immediately to me, are dark and disturbing.

  • henry15051 img 2014-02-12 09:47

    Please address the big question why is this a growing cultural norm? Suggest to host and participants to read Gail Dines book, Pornland, and would suggest you bring such an authority on sexual violence to deal with the truth of what is taking place in society. Bring her on the show. More government intervention is not the solution it starts in families, communities, education, and social and religious organizations to understand how media and culture projects unhealthy images on both males and females unhealthy lifestyles. Earl

  • DangerousDiscussion img 2014-02-12 20:32

    I find it interesting that this discussion was so one-sided. It is an unpopular position to take, that women who claim rape may be overstating their case, which stigmatizes men that are accused of it so severely that there is no defense, and no one willing to take up their defense. Sexual harassment is often defined as any unwanted sexual behavior, and even "sexual" is poorly-defined, at best. "Unwanted" is defined entirely in the mind of the the person perceiving it, leaving essentially no defense for any behavior that someone else chooses to interpret as both unwanted and sexual. If a truck driver urinates behind his truck, because he has no or unreasonably limited access to a bathroom, is that a sexual behavior? Depends who you ask, but it's a good bet that the truck driver didn't want to have to do that. Probably a better bet that whoever else happens to see him, didn't really want to see it, either.

    Based upon this definition, "wanted" sexual behavior isn't harassing, which permits a broad range of behavior that is more acceptable from attractive people than from the less-attractive. If less-attractive people find this offensive, then they can define the behavior as unwanted and sexual, which then makes them less-attractive as well as obnoxious, because they chose to involve themselves in something that did not previously include them.

    Why talk about harassment, this way? Because it engages a discussion about "unwanted" and "sexual". These words are also applied to rape.

    I'm not talking about the beat-her-half-to-death-and-violate-her type of rape, here, but rather the college-party-drank-to-much-and-woke-up-with-the-wrong-person variety. It is almost exclusively women that report rape, and the natural inclination is to assume that it is therefore almost exclusively men that are responsible. I challenge that assumption, and this is usually interpreted as "blaming the victim", which is also assumed to be inherently insensitive.

    And perhaps it is. But it also carries some potential for truth. When a woman puts on her sexiest dress, her frilliest under-garmets (or none at all), and paints on her make-up before attending that party, what exactly is she planning for? When I was in college, girls went to these things hoping to meet someone special, that they might later become intimate with. In many cases, they would drink specifically to relax, so that they would be better able to interact with men in whom they saw this potential. "Liquid courage", it used to be called - and many women (even very attractive ones) frequently lacked the self-esteem to present themselves to strangers as someone that might be interesting to get to know. "Liquid courage" lowered their inhibitions sufficiently to overcome their fear of rejection. This problem seems so widespread, that I am personally of the opinion that without drugs and/or alcohol, people would be so afraid to expose themselves to intimacy, that the human race would just die out from vastly reduced reproduction rates. If you disagree, then ask yourself how often your first sexual experience with a new person occurred in a completely sober state - and how often you had a drink (or worse), first. If you can honestly say that you do start sexual relationships, sober, then look at the people around you, or around college campuses, and consider whether or not this is the norm. If people can't get naked with one another, sober, then all sexual relationships can easily be defined as starting out as rape.

    Unfortunately, it also impairs judgement, which often lowers their standards - and it doesn't just lower their inhibitions around the fear of rejection, but also around sexual behavior. Quite frequently, this self-medication did lead to physical (and sometimes emotional) intimacy - but not always with someone that meets your standards, once the brain and heart have dried out.

    In these instances, the "sexual" contact was "unwanted" - the very definition of rape - not because the sex was unwanted, but because it was with the wrong person. Why is that only rape when it happens to a woman?

    Now, I want to emphasize that what I'm talking about, here, is the drunken party - not slipping-a-mickey, or the fellow who shows up at the party sober, stays sober, and picks up the drunk chicks. The smartest thing that I heard from any of the guests on the show was that not all rape is the same; there certainly are rapists out there - and I think that we do a disservice to the victims of those, by lumping them in with sorority girls that were trying to land a med student and woke up with a guitarist. But why is it that men are expected to act in a clear-headed way about sex, when they are drunk at a party, but women are being taken advantage of, when they are in the same state? Why isn't it the men that are being taken advantage of - raped - and the women who should be responsible enough to know when a man has lost the capacity to consent?

  • thinkwrite img 2014-02-14 22:56

    You may think that this is a joke, but in the Pennsylvania state college system you can not find a dorm for women students only. A couple years ago we checked into dorm life at Shippensburg and Millersville and were told that such a thing no longer exists. If you don't believe that easy access to the young women by the young men is not part of this problem, you do not know what goes on inside the mind of a young man. Liberal fools think that some sort of "training" will stop the rapes. It will not. We as state residents should at least have the OPTION of unisex dorms for our daughters where a security guard keeps the male students out. If that can't be provided, there is not a serious effort to protect the young women.