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Sexual Assault: Change has to come

Two weeks ago, I wrote a story explaining why the mass female power displayed at the 2018 Golden Globes was so important. A few weeks before that, Cristina Tuser, another Opinions writer for The Observer expressed the necessity of listening to the Hollywood stars that had been coming forward about their own sexual assault experiences. Today, this string of #MeToo movements hits far too close to home.

Monday afternoon, SGA worked with administrators to put together an open forum for students to address concerns with the Title IX staff and a Lieutenant from the Rock Island Police Department. This forum was in direct response to an emergency Greek Council meeting held with administration a few days prior. Both of these meetings aimed to ease the suffering caused for students by sexual assault, but both failed quite spectacularly.

It’s not a new fact that sexual assault happens at Augustana, but since a bravely outspoken female student came forward with the details of her assault, there’s been an overwhelming outcry among fellow survivors and sympathizers. The message they’re sending is clear: students are angry.

Students have the right to be angry. Students are justified in their frustration with the lack of progress campus has been making. Students are right when they say this is a conversation that shouldn’t have to continue for as many years as it has. Students are fair when they stand up in the faces of administration and say “What are you going to do differently?”

But there is another point far quieter but just as important: bringing about the day when #MeToo is spoken by no one is a movement that requires all members of society and this campus, not just the administration.

I see that movement starting now with women and other survivors retrieving every ounce of courage they have to show that fear is not an option. Fearlessness aids in the defeat of vulnerability, and the spread of fearlessness in women begins with those that have already been broken.

The system of punishing the perpetrators of these sexual violations is flawed, both on campus and off. However, due process takes much longer than it should for rape cases and even then rape is still difficult to prove. The American ideal of “innocent until proven guilty” has forced several survivors to have to live side by side with their abusers. It’s an unbelievably unfortunate situation, but that’s not the only thing students are fed up with.

The administration has openly said that there is no difference between sexual assault cases reported to Title IX that occured off campus versus on, but multiple victims have said the opposite. Several have said that Title IX coordinators have turned away the reports saying that off-campus housing violations cannot be filed.

Someone is lying here, and I’m inclined to believe the pattern of voices from the crowd. And those voices are the ones I put my hope in.

Should the administration improve their Title IX actions? Without a doubt, yes. But I think every student already knows that the change will not come from them. It comes from some really insanely brave women.

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