Sexual assault: Why students need to start talking, not lecturers

By Josie Washburn

Most SMU students probably remember sitting through the long, mandatory meetings in which a speaker lectured for an hour on the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses.

Understandably SMU hopes to provide its students with ample information on how to prevent sexual assaults and how to address it if it happens. But time and time again these speakers and lectures fail to impassion students; instead they inspire only a fleeting awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault.

Sexual assault is clearly an issue on college campuses worldwide, including SMU. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 23 percent of female and 5.4 percent of male undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault. At SMU, that’s around 730 females and 170 males. Even more sobering is the fact that only 20 percent of these college aged students report their harassment to law enforcement.

SMU provides victims with resources that they might not find outside of the university, such as confidential counseling, on-campus escorts and housing accommodations. But none of these may be as effective as one organization: Not On My Campus.

Not On My Campus, a student-run organization started at SMU in 2013, aims to spread awareness of the college-wide issue through social media campaigns and on campus visual displays. The goal is to get students talking about sexual assault.

The organization understands what those speakers do not. It understands that it’s when the students attend parties, live in dorms and join Greek organizations that sexual assault happens. As this Daily Campus article points out, accountability lies with students. If we want to foster a community where victims feel comfortable coming forward, getting them to talk is crucial.

So go ahead applaud SMU for its resources, but understand that while sexual assault is still a widespread issue, students need to take the initiative in communicating about it. A culture in which students are uninterested and unwilling to talk about this issue is one in which sexual assault thrives. Abolishing sexual assault requires more than guest lectures; it calls for a change in culture. That change starts with us: the students.

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