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With sexual assaults remaining in the shadows on many campuses, colleges are embroiled in a “national epidemic,” Jessica Valenti, an author and founder of the Feministing blog, told a UW-Madison audience Thursday night. She blames it on what victim advocates call our rape culture.

Valenti spoke during National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and after a recent report by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism on the underreporting of sexual assaults on campuses that found estimated rapes outnumber reports by a margin of 17-1 at UW campuses. The report was produced in collaboration and with support from the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, which conducted a year-long investigation of the problem across the nation’s campuses.

The rape culture that Valenti describes is based on the idea that women should be responsible for preventing rape, a mindset that she said absolves blame from the perpetrator. Society points to drinking, dressing scantily or staying out late as a woman’s choice to put herself in danger, Valenti said.

She noted that men are much more likely to be a victim of violent crime and are more likely to be assaulted, injured or killed when alcohol is involved.

If we use that same mindset for men, she said, given those statistics, we’d be telling men to stay home from the bars.

Nearly 200 people attended her speech at the Pyle Center, which was presented by Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (PAVE) and All-Campus Party.

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