The Daily Illini

John Kasich’s insensitive approach to sexual assault

By Minju Park, Columnist

Ohio Gov. John Kasich spoke briefly at a town hall in Watertown, New York, where he answered questions including one from a student of St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.

His response to her question regarding sexual assault on college campuses sparked outrage and criticisms of victim blaming.

The student inquired how to “feel safer and more secure regarding sexual violence, harassment and rape.”

Kasich responded to the topic by providing ways to take action after the assault has taken place, including rape kits and confidential reporting. However, the only thought he shared on what can be done through prevention was, “don’t go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol.”

There is undoubtedly a strong correlation between alcohol and sexual assault. Among the 20 percent of young women who attended college in the past four years who reported being sexually assaulted, about 14 percent of them were incapacitated, meaning that they were unable to give consent. This often involves alcohol intoxication that prevents them from having stable judgement.

Among those who experienced a sexual assault or unwanted contact, about 62 percent were drinking alcohol just prior to the incident. 

However, Kasich’s response displayed insensitivity toward victims of sexual assault. Stating that avoiding parties with alcohol is the only means of prevention is basically saying that victims must remove themselves from any situation that could possibly involve danger, rather than trying to stop the perpetrators from carrying out the crimes in the first place.

It’s placing the responsibility and the blame onto the victim or potential victims. This is no different from the flawed reasoning of those who blame women for wearing clothes that “provoke” men to assault them.

Although his comments were hurtful, I believe Kasich’s words were more a result of ignorant “good intentions” rather than purposeful malice. Kasich continues to mention how he is “the father of two 16-year-old daughters” and claims this makes him more aware of the dangers that young women face on college campuses. 

As a parent, I can see how trying to keep your children safe from harm involves lecturing them from staying away from dangerous situations. Parents don’t really have control over any other outside influences.

But as a politician — a current governor and potential president — Kasich has the ability to create change in the actions of perpetrators through methods such as stricter punishments, early education regarding sexual assault or raising awareness about the depictions of women in media.

This is an issue that is also very prevalent on our University’s campus. In the past weeks alone, there have been three campus safety notices regarding sexual assault cases sent out by the Division of Public Safety.

The frequency of sexual assault happening on our own campus proves this issue is closer to our hearts than we realize. Many of us are victims, or have friends who are victims, and it’s important to address this issue head-on instead of providing hollow advice that doesn’t get at the root of the problem itself.

While I realize that Kasich is trying to look out for young women by providing advice that he may give his daughters, it isn’t an effective way of battling the major issue of sexual assault on a large political scale. It comes off as insensitive and ignorant to the problems for which women need real solutions.

Instead, we need a campaign to change the way sexual assault perpetrators are dealt with in this country in order to deal with the issue from the source and prevent crime from developing into an even larger problem for future generations.

Minju is a freshman in Media.

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