By Claire Hunt
On Tuesday November 16, David Lisak, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston as well as an esteemed researcher of sexual assault and violent crimes, presented his research and trained those who will follow in his path at Clark. Through his work with college students, he coined the term the “undetected rapist” to define those whose rapes go unreported.
In his presentation, he played a disturbing video of an actor reading the script taken directly from one of Lisak’s interviewees, a fraternity brother who described the sly, brutal way in which he raped a college freshman. He describes courting her throughout the week, making her feel “honored” to be invited to the party the fraternity was having the following weekend. Before the party, he and the brothers prepared certain rooms where the young men would take the girls to sexually assault them.
Once at the party, he describes handing her a drink filled with a significant amount of alcohol and priding himself on making his move at the correct time. Once in the prepared room, he gives the viewer a vivid, grim description of how he completed the act. The most disturbing aspect was how nonchalantly this man illustrates something the majority of people would deem a horrific act of violence. Lisak then shares with the audience that this particular perpetrator admitted to two additional similar rapes.
Lisak’s main findings on sexual assault on college campuses have been that a very small percentage of men rape, but those who do tend to rape multiple times. For example, he stated that out of his sample of 1,500 men,
only 76 of them were serial rapists (those who had raped three or more times), but those 76 men accounted for over 400 rapes and over 1,000 acts of violent crime.
After the video, a student reminded Lisak that those in the audience cared about the issue and wanted to make a change, but asked, “How do we reach those who do not want to be reached?” In other words, how do we get to those who would not come to such a presentation? Lisak emphasized the importance of numbers. He had spent the morning working with RAs, RLH Prostaff, and University Police, informing leaders on campus about the issue. He also brought forth the example of the US Air Force, which has its highest commanders trained in sexual assault and regularly present information to their men.
Lisak stated that he would be amazed at the day when a school would hold a two-day conference with the president, provost, deans, and board of trustees on sexual assault and how to effectively make their campus safe. By getting the president and similar offices involved, we can create a community in which perpetrators know they are not welcome and will go elsewhere.
It was an honor to have David Lisak at Clark, as he is a famous psychologist in the study of perpetrators of sexual assault and violent crimes.
Ultimately, our efforts with the Clark Anti-Violence Education (CAVE), TOPICS, and the Bystander Program have been shown to be beneficial, but sexual assault and dating violence still occurs on campus. It is important to note that Clark does not have a more serious problem with sexual assault and dating violence than any other college, and these programs are not here to scare our students. However, such resources are key to the safety of all students. The numerous resources available to us include, but are not limited to, TOPICS, CAVE, UP, the deans, counseling services, and health services.
We understand that we cannot make a change today, tomorrow, or even a month from now. However, if we remember in our day-to-day life to watch our language and behaviors, take care of our friends, and be willing to take on an proactive bystander role, we can slowly but surely create the environment Lisak hopes to see.