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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Universities can do a lot to assuage concerns over sexual assault but it’s on us.

    The Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, conducted by the Association of American Universities, contained important findings about which groups are targeted the most for sexual assault and how the students felt about security and support at the UA.

    “Sexual assault and misconduct is a significant issue for the [UA,] and some people are more affected than others,” wrote President Ann Weaver Hart in an email regarding the survey.

    During the subsequent UA press briefing, Melissa Vito, senior vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and senior vice provost for Academic Initiatives and Student Success, explained that while the survey confirmed what they already knew, it also pointed out key areas in which more effort needs to be placed.

    According to the survey, students seem able to confide in the services and help provided by the university, but it was the lack of support among students themselves that was reported as an area that needs improvement.

    Even though the UA had a fairly low survey response rate of 8 percent, Vito explained at the press briefing that the survey “hit right at … Spring Fling and took us to the week before courses ended,” which impacted participation, especially considering the length of the survey.

    The low survey participation may be excused with the university’s busy schedule during that time period; however, it does not excuse other findings concerning the students’ participation in helping combat sexual assault.

    Out of 22 percent of surveyed students who witnessed someone acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner, 58 percent did nothing about it, according to the survey.

    The survey also found that 45 percent of surveyed students had witnessed a drunken person heading for a sexual encounter, but 77 percent of those students did nothing to help.

    For both of these findings, a small portion claimed to not know what to do about it. Although there wasn’t any given reason for the rest of the students who didn’t take action upon what they witnessed, it shows that we are not taking these situations seriously enough to educate ourselves about it.

    Imagine all the people students could have saved from becoming sexual assault victims had they actually taken the time to educate themselves about how to help.

    We expect our schools to be the heroes and magically save us from sexual assault around campus, but we’re not willing to do our part in the effort to combat it ourselves.

    The school offers a variety of services for victims and even those who feel threatened, including academic accommodations, changes in residence halls and supportive counseling.

    “Reporting is so important to us because then students have a range of options available to them that they may not just intuitively know about,” said Mary Beth Tucker, Title IX coordinator and assistant vice president for Equity Compliance.

    Victims aren’t required to press charges against their abusers after reporting, but reporting these incidents is crucial in helping those victimized.

    Not only do we decide to be oblivious of suffering that sexual assault brings to its victims, but we also actually support it in an indirect manner. There is such a strong stigma surrounding this issue that it keeps so many from reporting their abusers.

    Instead of shaming those who have committed the crime, we tend to shame the victims by making them feel as if they are to blame for what happened.

    I’ve heard the phrase “she was asking for it” enough to confirm some people’s ignorance towards the issue. There is absolutely no type of setting and no type of clothing that make it acceptable for a person to make sexual contact with another without their consent.

    With the advent of the national campaign It’s On Us and the Associated Students of the University of Arizona’s new I Will campaign, which is still in the works, the resources are there, and we simply seem to be ignoring them.

    We cannot keep taking these issues so lightly and expect our school to be our hero all the time, and we cannot keep punishing victims for another person’s crime. Instead, we need to educate ourselves and be prepared to be our own heroes, or to be one for someone else who may need a hand.

    Follow Genesis Lara on Twitter.

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