Letter to the Editor: Sexual assault prevention takes a community

To the editor:

I am writing in response to last week’s editorial regarding sexual assault on Rider’s campus.

Research has shown that one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, and more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.

Nineteen percent of undergraduate women reported experiencing completed or attempted sexual assault since entering college. Most of these assaults were committed by someone the victim knew and these perpetrators are often serial offenders. Rape frequently devastates the victim and derails an education and a victim’s future.

Many college rapists target victims who are drugged, drunk, passed out or otherwise incapacitated – creating a situation in which victims may be less likely to report and where prosecutors may be less likely to prosecute.  Only 2 percent of victims of incapacitated rape reported the assault to law enforcement.

It is not unusual for media sources to see the number of reported rapes go up and equate that to a rise in the actual numbers that are occurring. The assaults are happening, and as per the above statistics, only a small fraction come forward with their stories. Creating a campus culture that encourages students to come forward is just as important as creating a culture of respect on a campus to prevent assaults from happening. Students don’t report for many reasons; fear of how they might be treated; concern that they would not be believed; wanting to protect the perpetrator, or blaming themselves for what happened. I emphatically state that it is never the fault of the victim. No matter what the victim was wearing, where they chose to go, who they chose to spend time with, or if they chose to have alcohol or another drug, no one asks or deserves to be assaulted.

The fact that there has been a rise in the number of reports shows that students at Rider are more willing to come forward and trust the system. If one in five women are assaulted on a college campus then there is much more to be done in addition to encouraging reports. Comparing number of rapes from one campus to another is like apples and oranges. Different campuses have different cultures. The fact that a larger institution has the same low number does not mean the assaults are not happening, they are just not being reported.

[The editorial] states that freshmen are required to do an online education program, ThinkLuv, and that they make fun of the program. ThinkLuv was utilized for upper classmen in the Fall of 2014.  It is no longer being used because of that feedback. All new students, both freshmen and transfers are required to complete Campus Clarity’s Think About It Program. The Campus Clarity program end-of-session surveys reveal that the majority of students in fact do like the program and have learned from it.

The writer feels that Rider’s administration needs to do more to protect students. We can always do more and the university is committed to do everything we can to raise awareness and provide prevention training. However, it can’t just be the Rider staff that do the work, students need to take the responsibility to create an environment where rape and sexual assault is not acceptable. Students can help by creating a culture of respect.

Bystander intervention has been shown to be one of the key factors in decreasing incidents. As the signs on campus said, if you see something, then say or do something. Do you see someone being mocked or bullied? Step in and help. If you see a drunk person that a possible perpetrator is spending too much time with, then step in. Get involved by staying with the person, making sure they get out of the situation or even speak up and make statements that show the perpetrator that his/her action has been noticed and won’t be tolerated. Hear someone making a rape joke? Ask them to explain to you why an assault on someone is funny. Challenge others to speak up and create an environment where people know that assaults, poorly-worded jokes and sexual misconduct will not be tolerated.

Get involved on campus, show up to the programs that educate students about how to successfully intervene and help others. Create a club or join an existing organization that is already doing the work on campus to create a safer environment. Go to a rally, make your own signs, talk with your peers, your hall mates, your Greek brothers and sisters, your athletes, your classmates and create programs, rallies and events…it is on all of us to do the work here at Rider.

 

—Susan Stahley

Alcohol/Drug & Sexual Assault Prevention 

Education Coordinator

 

Printed partially in the 10/12/16 issue.

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