We’re nearing the end of 2014’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month where we’ve hopefully been able to shed some light and provide some information about sexual assault on and off college campuses, about healthy sexuality especially for survivors, bystander intervention, and some positive approaches to consent education the world over. But the efforts still continue in US, especially on college campuses.
The million dollar question over the past few years has been, “what makes college campuses such a hotbed for sexual assault?” What is so unique about these micro cultures that seem to create the perfect environment for sexual assault to be so prevalent? We suspect that it’s the combination of academic entitlement (with admission rates in the single digits for some schools), abundance of alcohol, the work-hard-party-hard mentality (or just party-hard, forget academics), underreporting, and a lack of consequences for rule (or law) breaking outside of the college, that creates a “perfect storm” on college campuses for sexual assault.
To date, the Department of Education is investigating over 50 schools for violations of Title IX and Clery Act, including Columbia University, Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, Tufts, and Vanderbilt, among many others. This has led to a Presidential Task Force, formed earlier this year, and now the White House is urging colleges to adopt new anti-assault policies and create anonymous surveys to track statistics.
This conversation is just getting started, as more college and university administrators can no longer avoid talking about sexual assault on the campuses because it’s uncomfortable. In fact, schools with higher instances of reporting sexual assaults may actually be safer campuses, as students understand the realities of sexual assault, have a trusting relationship with the administration, and can see change on their campuses. Gone are the days of ignoring this issue because administrators are too afraid to tackle it. Some organizations, like Harvard Women, are helping alumnae/i find their voice to speak about against the administration using fundraising. For example, Harvard Women is raising funds from alumnae/i who refuse to financially support their alma mater because of the mishandling of sexual assaults on campus. Dartmouth is starting to do the same.
The most important piece to take away from this is that we do not have to sit silently as sexual assault prevails on college campuses. Demand that your alma mater change their policies and include language about consent and proper punishment for perpetrators. One of the biggest reasons that colleges may be underreporting sexual assaults to the Department of Education is because they fear that donors, funders, and alumni won’t support the institution if the statistics are published. Instead, it’s creating a more dangerous climate for all students, not just survivors of sexual assault. Show them that your support and donations matter.
Bringing in a group like Speak About It shows that the administration cares about their students, and their students’ well-being. When applying to colleges, we look at majors, athletics, dorms, student-to-professor ration, financial aid, but now we need to look at how schools react to sexual assault. Every campus has a problem with sexual assault, not just the ones in the news, but those having a conversation about consent education and bystander intervention with their students are showing that they want to create change.
Get your school or alma mater on board. Contact us about bringing Speak About It to your institution. Or donate here to help support our growth and allow us to bring change across the country. Sexual Assault Awareness Month is almost over, but that doesn’t mean the conversation has to stop, too.
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