To be honest, it saddens me how little is known about sexual assault on this campus. This is something that’s been discussed over and over, and reader, you can go ahead and click away if you think that I’m beating a dead horse. I think that since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), this is as good a time to talk about it as any.
For some reason, the majority of this campus doesn’t understand that we have just as big of a problem with sexual assault as do the big state schools. Just having a small population doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen here at Jewell. In fact, to my knowledge, it occurs at a frighteningly high frequency in comparison to other schools.
I’m so happy with the fact that the school is carrying out the activities of SAAM that last year’s Pryor Legacy Class began. It looks like the beginning of a long and winding road for this school to become more aware of what happens on our campus. But just dedicating the month of April to sexual assault awareness doesn’t mean that we have suddenly become perfect. There’s still so much to do.
I’m ready for people to take off their blinders and face the reality of what we are dealing with. There are few things that compare to the pain that one feels when he or she has been sexually assaulted by someone considered to be a peer and has to continue to see this person every single day. Victims exist and live on this campus, just the same as predators exist and live on this campus.
We need to foster an environment in which victims feel like they can come forward and be surrounded by love and support. We need a population of students who will no longer stand for the silence that we continue to hold on this subject. I no longer want this to be a place where women feel unsafe walking into their own dorms at night or going to a fraternity house on the weekend. We should be doing more to ensure the safety of every single student and to hold everyone accountable to the values we claim to have.
Honestly, I feel like if somebody says that he or she was assaulted, there should be no speculation as to whether or not that happened. Victims should immediately be provided with support, but many victims don’t have that support and don’t feel like they would have it if they came forward with their stories.
I think some people are so blissfully ignorant towards rape culture and sexual assault on college campuses because they think it could never happen to them; therefore, they have nothing to worry about. The reality is quite the opposite, and I think we would all be more sympathetic and supportive if we put ourselves in the perspective of those who have experienced something as horrible as sexual assault.
I think that if we all get on the same page, as a college and as a community, we can make the biggest impact in preventing sexual assault. I think that sexual assault education courses or Title IX refreshers would be beneficial. Outlining what kind of behavior is okay and not okay may help people learn to respect others just because they are people.
In addition, I think there should be more open and direct contact with the students about the counseling services provided here on campus. Banishing the stigma attached to mental trauma due to sexual assault would likely make people more willing to find help if they are sexually assaulted.
I hope to see some of these changes occur on campus next semester and truly urge anyone needing help to reach out and find support.