A young woman’s life is forever changed by a careless random act of violence.

The community rallies. Everybody from the mayor to the sheriff to state legislators wants to offer solutions so it never happens again.

That’s what happened after a USC student was shot and subsequently paralyzed by a stray bullet in the Five Points area of Columbia on Oct. 13.

Why isn’t the response just as immediate, angry and defiant when a young woman says she has been raped? Where are the proposals from the politicians and city leaders?

Instead, there are questions about two alleged sexual assaults near the College of Charleston, one in which a college student was the victim.

In a state with a bad track record when it comes to violence against women, it’s worth noting the responses to these violent acts.

The college did the right thing by letting the community know. Whether it did the best thing in the way it went about packaging and disseminating the information was the subject of much debate, social media and otherwise.

As C of C’s Jeri Cabot, vice president of student affairs, said, “Just because someone is drinking does not give anybody the right to go forward with a sexual act.”

No-win situation

The college, which has been criticized before for a lack of transparency on sexual assault reporting, has a tough job. Working with a population of young people figuring out how to be adults who also happen to be possibly inexperienced drinkers, is not for the squeamish.

It’s entirely possible that they would have been criticized for not including the information about how alcohol is frequently a factor in rape.

But that wasn’t the only information in the press release, also posted as a campus alert on the college’s public safety department web page.

There’s a link to get a rape whistle.

There’s a link to sign up for a rape aggression defense class.

And more safety tips.

All of these are good things. But to some people’s reading, all these things add up to the fact that if you are a woman, you will be a victim.

And what a lot of women are asking is, where is the message for the men that they should not be the perpetrators?

Where is the link for the men’s class on rape prevention?

Where is the message to male students that just because someone is too drunk to say no doesn’t mean that it’s consensual sex?

Shifting perspective

Why does this keep happening?

For the same reason that somebody on the online retailer Etsy can sell T-shirts that say “Autumn is perfect for date rape.” That’s until a social media and change.org shame campaign got the shirt kicked off the site.

As a new People Against Rape billboard campaign on I-26 points out, a woman’s outfit is not an invitation to rape. And neither is a drink in her hand.

To put it another way, alcohol doesn’t rape women. Men rape women.

There’s nothing wrong with telling women to protect themselves, or that excessive alcohol consumption can impair their judgment as well as their physical ability to fight off an attacker. (Not to mention the ability to walk without stumbling.)

But there ought to be at least equal attention paid to telling men that taking advantage of drunk women is rape, plain and simple. And there ought to be more outrage about the lack of outrage.

The young woman in Columbia was the victim of a violent crime. So were the women in Charleston. When we start seeing both types of crimes that way, then maybe we can make progress.

Reach Melanie Balog at mbalog@postandcourier.com or 937-5565.