By Randy Miller
Last fall, the Union College Student Forum began a student-led initiative to increase conversations about responsible sex in attempts to reduce sexual assault on our campus. The campaign has included a poster competition, leadership workshops and a guest speaker. Thus far the response to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive and has generated an increased volume of conversation and discussion around the campus. It is imperative that all members of the Union Community join hands to reduce the frequency of sexual assault occurring on college campuses.
Issues pertaining to sexual assault are endemic on college campuses nationwide. From the Duke Lacrosse scandal in 2006 to the tragic suicide at Rutgers University last October to another incident at Yale also in 2010, there have been many news stories about sexual assault on college campuses, but many students go about life as normal after the furor and controversy subside. The reality is that sexual assault on college campuses is not relegated to a few isolated incidents across the country. It is occurring with an alarming frequency that requires action by students. 1 in 5 college age women have reported being raped at some point, yet only 3% of women actually report these instances to the authorities or college officials. While some instances of sexual assault and misconduct are noticed, publicized and adjudicated, many go unnoticed and unreported due to the varying perceptions of this problem.
Many survivors question whether they are actually assaulted, whether it is worth reporting, and whether or not their claims will be taken seriously, while offenders frequently walk away without realizing that they, in fact, committed an egregious offense. This is a major issue, as it appears there is a conceptual misunderstanding of what sexual assault may entail. A common perception is that sexual assault is committed through force by an unknown assailant, but most instances prove otherwise. Sexual assault on the Union campus is frequently perpetrated by an assailant known to the victim and it may occur via coercion, force, persistence or incapacitation of the victim. An understanding of the issue affords us with the realization that factors like binge drinking, communication and gender roles play an inordinate role in causing sexual assault. Consequentially, the Dean of Students Office has revamped the existing Sexual Assault Policy to empower the victim with a support network, encourage awareness as to foster prevention and to advance a culture of respect.
Through this student-led and administration-supported concerted campaign we hope to target these issues, provide a voice for those in doubt and educate those who do not understand the parameters that may define “sexual assault.” By taking a firm stance in unison with Student Forum, the Dean of Students Office, Health Services, students, faculty and administrators, our message in cultivating respect will be heard clearly and loudly. It is in this tradition that we would like to invite you to become an active participant in this bold campaign. We urge you to stand up for your friends and take part in creating an accepting atmosphere. This can be done by reflecting, conversing with friends or attending events such as Take Back the Night. As responsible Union students, it is our duty to ensure the safety of our friends by decreasing the frequency to which sexual assault occurs. We must join hands to beat sexual assault. We simply must.