Make Your Mark: Fighting Campus Rape with Christian Dunbar

Blog, Make Your Mark | 09/29/2020

“We are the people that will lead our nation, and we will create lasting security inside of our borders, not just outside of our borders. It is on us. Not our family. Not our friends. Not their family. Not our schools. Now is our time to make our mark.”

Our Make Your Mark series, powered by the NFL, showcases the global impact of the Tillman Scholars who are writing the story of a better future. In these videos, they share their works of humble leadership and service across both public and private sectors.

In his talk, Tillman Scholar Christian Dunbar recounts coming home from Afghanistan and hearing the national news about the alarming rate of sexual assaults on college campuses in the United States. Hearing this news drove him to actively create change.

He notes that one in four students on college campuses will be a victim of sexual assault and that one in five students will not have the opportunity to report the crime or fight back for themselves. Christian uses his voice to call on everyone to think about how they can step up as leaders and help make this statistic non-existent, especially through peer-to-peer training.

His advice is simple, but they are words he hopes will drive everyone to make the right decision and take action: Do anything. Start small. Get more active. Be who you are. Be a leader.

Watch the full talk and read the transcript below.


Good afternoon. Thank you.

It’s my distinct honor to be here. It’s an honor to be called a Pat Tillman Scholar, and despite all the honors that we may receive and my career in the SEAL Teams and 23 years of service, what I really am is I’m a dad. I’m a father of five, and recently just this week, we added number five, born on Saturday [applause]. She adds symmetry to our family because it’s now girl, girl, boy, girl, girl, so I’ve got four beautiful young daughters and one very-much-like-his-father son. But like many of us, I was driven towards a life of service to create change and create a safer world and environment for us all to live in. For my family to grow up in. 

I’ve been on deployment in 44 different countries, creating social and security change. I’m pretty proud of that across my career — until recently, when I just came home from Afghanistan, and I came home to a national discussion about the alarming rate of sexual assault on college campuses in the United States. The rate that they were quoting was one in four. I couldn’t believe it, and immediately I started to tear up and cry thinking how could this be in our country? In my country where we allow this to happen. Where the most dangerous place for my family and children to be is not Afghanistan or Iraq, but it’s in that first opportunity that they leave our house. It’s on a college campus. And my tears turn to anger, and my anger turned into a passion for action, and I said not my family. Not my friends. Not my friends’ family. Not at my alma mater. Not in my United States of America. So that’s why I’m here today. I’m here to ask, to plead, or you to join me and help lead a lasting cultural change on college campuses. 

While you do that, I’ll tell you where this number comes from. This possibly unbelievable one in four is an absolutely true statistic, and I will explain to you more about this epidemic. And right as you’re at your emotional low, I’ll bring you right back to hope. Where we are in our country, there is a social voice, there is legislation being taken at the state level, there is a national program being run out of Washington, and then I will explain to you fellow Pat Tillman Scholars, and others and supporters in the room, what you can do to save someone’s life the minute you step on a campus. Not just one person, dozens, nearly hundreds of lives that you can save. One in four. Absolutely unbelievable. How could it possibly be how could it be that when I stand up for graduation, not just one, but possibly two or three people in our arms reach have been a victim of a heinous crime. In 2015, a hundred and fifty thousand students responded to a survey from 27 different institutions, and not only did they validate the statistic of one in four, but that survey was so comprehensive and complete it educated us all about the real problem on college campuses. 

First, it confirmed that our young people are very smart. They are well-educated, and they very clearly understand the definition of sexual assault, and they do not confuse it with sexual harassment, gender-based inequality, or morning-after regret. Not only do they understand the definition, but even more interesting, the statistics show us that one in four is gender-neutral. 28% of women and 23% of males in college in their time at college report that they were a victim of sexual assault, that they were a victim of this crime. Now, you’ve heard me say the word “crime” quite a bit, and that’s because not only do our young people absolutely understand the definition. — that this is not moral, that this is criminal action — so do all of our universities and so do all of our states. They have imposed laws with common vernacular that clearly defines sexual assault as a crime. One of the most discomforting facts about this crime is the nature of the crime. One in five college students will not even be given the opportunity to fight back for themselves. It is a violent crime, and many times the student is incapacitated. This is a premeditated decision by the perpetrator. It is not the victim, it is never the victims fault. It is the perpetrators fault and, unfortunately, many times if we don’t take appropriate action, it is our fault as well.

This crime is so deep, so emotional, so penetrating that it changes a person for life. If it happens so often, how come we don’t hear about it more often unless it’s in the news because it’s an athlete or in a fraternity? It’s because the emotions are so deep, the scars are so penetrating that the barriers to reporting the crime are so extensive that we do not create the right environment for people to be safe asking for help or people to be safe to report. Barriers to reporting include being singled out, having to relive, being revicimitzed during the investigation process, having to face their perpetrator again, having a label. Only 28% of victims actually report to their institution or to the police department now the reality. Now, the reality of hat is almost all — 98 percent — but almost all that are investigated are found factual absolutely debunking the myth that this is out of spite or morning-after regret. This is a true crime, and we have to do something. In our nation, there is hope. There is a social voice. Movies like “The Hunting Ground” and Grammy-nominated songs such as “Til It Happens To You” are raising social awareness. There is legislation at almost every state level. Almost every university is taking action or being compelled to take action mostly at the institutional process level enabling reporting tighter coordination with law enforcement, care, advocacy and training and education. There are grassroots opportunities at every campus that are popping up between sororities and fraternities and athletic departments, but it’s not enough. 

From the White House, there’s a task force across the country with a campaign called It’s On Us. Now, as a philosophy It’s On Us is great because it tells us all that it is on us to take action, to not allow things to happen in our presence, to step in and intervene, to not create the environment or support the environment of predatory actions. But where it falls short, and many of us in this room know this, where a policy or a campaign falls short is leadership on the ground. Action. People of same core values, leadership, drive, and determination, that’s where

this campaign falls short. That’s where we come in. I’m calling on all of us, those Pat Tillman Scholars, those of us that want to continue and feel in our heart to continue service out of uniformyou can do that immediately when you step back on campus. You already live this life of service, you already know what to do. You are preenculturated. You’ve already been trained, and many times you’ve given the training. Peer-to-peer training is the best way, not institutional level training. We’ve all sat in the classrooms with a thousand people, with someone from the administration telling us legal definitions and what to do and what not to do, but that is not impactful. We need leaders. We are leaders. We will create change. 

There’s an opportunity for all of us to grow the grassroots level beyond where there are small pockets of excellence. Just this class alone will be able to expand across the United States. And I’m asking you to do something. Do anything. Start small, if it’s as simple as providing gritty feedback on how bad computer-based training is or how terrible the presenter was in front of the class or the audience or the audience of 2,000. Get more active. Be who you are. Be a leader. March into that care office, the people that are responsible for training and educating on campus. Talk to them, find out what they need. Normally, in a large campus like UCLA, there is one person there. They need our help. March right on over to the Veterans Support Office, grab five or six more veterans, grow your enterprise, come back and say, “We’re here.” March into the athletic department, go into the Greek life system and say, “We are mentors. We believe in this culture of change. We believe that we need to protect our fellow students and our way of life.” And eventually we will create networks upon networks of change.

Those of us not in uniform or those of us not going back to a campus, we have a role and responsibility as well. Look to the left, look to the right. Support that veteran. Support off the campus. Use your networks. Use your resources. Mentor small startups. Provide external support from business, from sororities and fraternities, national organizations, from athletics. Do not allow this to be what defines our generation. Create change. Join me. Join the rest of your scholars. We need organizational support. We need on-ground leadership. We need people who will be adaptive and lead. The solution at UCLA will not be the solution at USD, will not be the solution at Notre Dame, and is certainly not the solution at Harvard. But we have ground-level action and people responding. And it’s time to expand that network. And together, we will band together and will change that very heinous, that very real number of one in four to one in forty, to one and four hundred to one and none. Now is the time. There is social movement, there is social confirmation, there are legislative actions, and there’s leadership from the White House. We are the people that will lead our nation, and we will create lasting security inside of our borders, not just outside of our borders. It is on us. Not our family. Not our friends. Not their family. Not our schools. Not our the United States of America. Now is our time to make our mark.

Thank you.