Have you been affected by sexual assault or harassment? Me too.
Maybe you’ve noticed people talking about sexual violence on social media platforms lately. The recent Hashtag #MeToo has sparked a discussion about the prevalence of sexual violence among women. The phrase originated in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke, who created the movement to support women who have been sexually assaulted. Now over ten years later it has been revived with a more powerful following.
#MeToo gained traction, and millions of woman began sharing their experiences with sexual assault, harassment, and rape. This discussion is needed now, more than ever, due to recent changes regarding sexual violence in our education system.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Did all these tweets open your eyes to just how prevalent sexual violence is? Me too.
In 2011, the Obama administration took a step forward in ending sexual violence on college campuses through their letter, Dear Colleague. The letter explains the legal obligations a university must take when an incident occurs.
In September, Betsy Devos, the current Secretary of Education, took two steps backward in reversing the new guidelines presented in Dear Colleague.
Betsy Devos feels that those who are “victims of lack of due process”… AKA the accused students who are tried unfairly. These new guidelines for handling sexual assault, however, give the accused more favor than the victim.
Here are just a few things that the rollback will change for college students who fall victim to sexual violence:
The university can allow the accused to appeal the case. The accuser cannot appeal, however. Meaning the case could not be revisited if the accused is initially found not guilty.
Time limits can be removed from cases. Under Obama, schools had 60 days to conduct an investigation. The new guidelines will allow schools to take their time. This means that students could potentially be on campus with their rapists for years and even until graduation.
While colleges used to be required punish students if it was more than 51% likely that the accused was guilty. Under Devos, it is up to each university’s discretion to decide whether a student is guilty. This could make it harder for victims to prove their case.
Under Obama mediation between the accused and the accuser was forbidden, even if both parties agreed. The new guidelines allow colleges to decide whether they want to try and resolve the problem if both parties agree.
Do these changes scare you? Me too
If you aren’t scared of these changes, then there’s a good chance you’re part of the problem.
Victims are silenced, due to the shame and stigma that goes along with sexual assault through victim blaming. Students need to struggle to have their voices heard on campus over the parade of questions that follow their speaking out: What were you wearing? Did you have too much to drink and do something you regret? Did you lead him on?
Betsy Devos and the Department of Education have made it even harder for students to speak out on campus without the fear of being made subject to this shame.
Do you think the way sexual violence is treated on college campuses needs to be changed? Me too.
By this point, you’re probably wondering how all of this will affect you here on Hawk Hill. Personally, I don’t want to believe that the place I have come to feel most home at could be a part of the problem. As with any college campus, however, the possibility of sexual violence is present. From 2013-2015, there were 4 forcible sex offenses, 11 rapes, and 4 cases of unwanted touching in campus housing alone. This only includes the cases that were reported. Judging from the fellow hawks on my timeline who were courageous enough to post #MeToo, the number is much larger than we could imagine.
We will only have succeeded in ending sexual violence when no one else can say Me Too. The Obama Administration reminded everyone that It’s on Us to end sexual violence on our campus. We desperately need to solve this problem and we can only do it one way: together.
Are you inspired to make a difference? Me too
Here are a few tips on how we as a school community can prevent sexual violence and make our campus safe for survivors:
*Note these are just prevention tips. Sexual violence can affect anyone, no matter how much they tried to prevent it. Just because someone doesn’t take these steps doesn’t mean it’s their fault.*
Don’t rape people. Clear consent is required when it comes to any sexual act. Educate yourself on consent in order to avoid crossing boundaries.
Use the safety resources around you, such as the blue lights on campus and the free rides offered by public safety
Always go out with a friend and keep an eye on them.
If you see someone who needs help, step in.
Don’t make statements like “wow the Eagles totally got raped last night.” Otherwise known as rape jokes. They aren’t funny.
Take the iCare pledge.
Listen to someone who needs to share their story without passing judgement or blame.
Take advantage of the free resources offered. The free rape crisis hotline offered by the Rape Education Prevention Program, Counseling and Psychological Services, and the Women’s Center are all places on campus where you can talk to someone and find out what to do next.