It’s a given that sexual assaults on campus should be reported to the police. But we as a community also have a role to play in making sure that assaults don’t happen in the first place.
Recently, Rowan University Public Safety released 2016’s Security & Fire Safety Report. In 2016, there were 11 instances of reported rape. In 2014 & 2015, there were seven each year. Our reporter got in touch with Public Safety Director Reed Layton and Director of Healthy Campus Initiatives Allie Pearce, who both pointed out that the spike in reports of rape might have increased in 2016, but perhaps as a cause of individuals’ increased willingness to report it. But there’s also been an increase in our student body.
It’s true Rowan University tries its best to educate students on the often taboo topic of sexual assault. Our Wellness Center has programs devoted to it, and the upcoming Title IX Summit on Oct. 6 will also focus on such topics.
But this heightened number is an indication that it happens. Sexual assault is very real and, unfortunately, happens on college campuses across the country. Our college campus, too. Imagine how many instances still remain unreported, victims so terrified by their own situations, they choose to stay silent. Reporting sexual assault is also a long and cumbersome process.
Most recently, Title IX, a key piece of legislation that helps to protect individuals against sexual assault, was threatened by United States Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Ms. DeVos, in her speech to George Mason University, focused more on sexual assault perpetrators rather than victims.
This should make us all uncomfortable. Sexual assault is a crime. It’s not a small matter. Title IX should not, in any way, be made easier on perpetrators. We can’t normalize perpetrators.
And while perhaps as a society we’re getting better at empowering individuals to report their assault and even getting better at genuinely supporting victims, this doesn’t take away from the fact that it still happens. This harmful rhetoric surrounding sexual assault still happens.
We normalize rapists and make excuses for their actions. This can’t be the case anymore. Want to help with prevention? Do your part, Rowan community, and if you see someone who is uncomfortable with the advances someone is making, say something. If you see anyone who looks like they need help or a friend, do something. If this is still daunting for you, delegate and distract.
But, as our Editorial Board has said before, if you really care about ending sexual assault, and you really care about making other students feel safe, just don’t assault them.
This statement is not intended to be overly simplistic. Just don’t be a part of this statistic. Imagine a day when Layton and Pearce don’t have to mention instances of rape. Period.
As a university, it’s time to stop making excuses for why someone might have assaulted someone else. It’s time to stop calling perpetrators something else than other than what they are: rapists. No one was “too drunk” at the fraternity last night, and no one was “asking for it.”
And if you’re ever involved in a sexual encounter and you’re unsure if you’ve received consent, there’s your answer: you haven’t.
Yes, perhaps the Rowan University student body reported sexual assault more frequently last year than in years past. That’s a good thing. But the instances are not, and that’s on all of us.
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