We all need to work to address sexual assault

On Jan. 22, President Obama announced that he was forming a task force to help counter the rising problem of sexual assault on college campuses. The statistics on the issue are alarming: 1 in 5 females are raped while in college; only 1 in 8 victims report it; one study posits that 7 percent of men in college have attempted rape, and 63 percent of those men have admitted committing multiple offenses (averaging six rapes each).

The majority of the victims knew their attackers prior to the rape and many of them take place in the party scene. Many of these rapes also take place under the influence of alcohol on both sides, and also entail the use of date rape drugs. The President’s White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault was given 90 days to come up with recommendations for colleges to prevent this crime, as well as increase public awareness of each school’s track records, and coordinate responses from federal agencies to hold accountable schools that don’t address the problem.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this unfolds and overall how effective this task force will be in the future.I am skeptical about how effective the president’s efforts, however well-meaning, will be. For the federal government to help students increase their reporting of sexual assault will be next to impossible, no matter how much pressure they bring down upon schools with poor track records.

Short of installing secret student organizations trained to spot, report, and address the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, I fail to see how this issue can be addressed from a top-down perspective. Let’s bring the issue a little closer to home then. It’s up to each individual person to get the guts to speak up. This is not something which can be dealt with by school officials.

We know what’s happening, but we don’t speak up. We hear the rumors of what happens on campus, at the parties, on the weekends, maybe some of the students reading this article have been involved directly or indirectly with sexual assaults. Some may be victims, some may be perpetrators. However, I speak to the middle man. I speak to those who are trying to stay neutral, and not acknowledge the problem. If you are one of those, the burden’s on you to speak up. You saw the stats on how little the victims report their abuse. And what perpetrator will have the crisis of conscience necessary to confess their sins?

It’s on the shoulders of the people who are trying to be neutral on the issue to speak up. You see something, say something. We can’t rely on the school to do this for us. We are the student body and we’ve got to look out for each other. We must be prepared to speak up for those who are frightened to speak.
Our actions are the only way this will be effectively addressed; not by government efforts, not by school crackdowns, but by our individual actions.