One in three women and one in six men in the U.S. have experienced some form of contact sexual violence within their lifetimes.
This jarring statistic that comes from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, along with many others, is recognized throughout the duration of April in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Last week, SIUE saw the return of the ‘It’s On Us’ week of action hosted by the Prevention Education and Advocacy Center. Throughout the week, students could attend events such as yoga for survivors and allies, a self-defense course and a silent protest.
Keynote speaker Bonny Shade then took to the stage in the Meridian Ballroom in her program “Just Another Assault.” Shade, who is a survivor of sexual assault, addressed audiences as she shared her experience with acquaintance-based assault and offered intervention techniques to reduce rape culture and assaults on campus.
Other scheduled campus events included the showing of “The Hunting Ground,” a film that documents the horrific incidents of sexual assault that occur on college campuses in the U.S. Teal ribbons were displayed throughout the Stratton Quadrangle, and a candlelight vigil is set to take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 19 on the Quad.
As The Alestle recently reported, despite these initiatives, students are still unaware of who to contact and how to report such instances on campus.
Online training modules such as Not Anymore offer tools that students need in these instances; many students do not take the training seriously. The information gets lost as students continue to click “next” on the bottom of each webpage in an effort to remove the hold from their academic accounts.
When these incidents do occur on campus, the university is not transparent. This was the case last fall when graduate Bailey Reed filed a federal lawsuit against the university after she was sexually assaulted in October 2017. Reed claims the university failed to fully investigate her case.
Allegedly, Reed was told by an SIUE employee not to file a complaint with the police or the university, and the initial investigation ruled against her, claiming she had flirted with the student prior to the assault.
She later won an appeal with the Title IX panel, but in May 2018, Chancellor Randy Pembrook overturned Reed’s appeal and cleared the charges against the accused student.
All these resources and events are great, but when the time comes to actually report, previous incidents suggest the university may not have students’ best interests in mind.
Is it really “on us,” or is that something that’s said only when April rolls around?
The university not only needs to be more forthcoming, but it needs to reassure students that they mean more to the institution than their tuition dollars.
The only way to fully ensure students are getting the best education throughout their time on campus is to make sure they have a safe and supportive environment.
To anyone who may be a victim, utilize the Title IX Office and Coordinator Jamie Ball. There are people on -campus who can help and give support and resources.