Editorial published in the print edition of Elon University’s student-run newspaper, The Pendulum, on November 5, 2014.
One in five women and one in 16 men has been or will be sexually assaulted while in college. Eight in 10 victims know their attackers. These statistics, from the It’s On Us campaign website, illustrate that sexual assault is a crucial issue on all campuses.
Thankfully, Elon University and Burlington are encouraging students and residents to prevent and deal with sexual assault. But there is still room for improvement.
According to the It’s On Us website, the campaign is a “cultural movement aimed at fundamentally shifting the way we think about sexual assault.” It is based on the platform that sexual assault is not just a crime between the attacker and the victim but a problem for the whole community. The goal is to reframe the current assumptions on sexual assault so that the responsibility goes beyond those immediately involved.
In October, North Carolina State University’ released a video PSA with students, faculty and staff stating that sexual assault is up to everyone to combat. The video highlights the university’s awareness and prevention of sexual assault. People from all walks of life, backgrounds, clubs, etc. were shown in the video voicing their support for a community-based response to sexual assault. All demographics are responsible.
The It’s On Us campaign has the right idea.
While Elon supports multiple organizations, committees and events, they can only do so much. It is then the responsibility of the rest of the community to take part in spreading prevention and awareness.
This may seem like a daunting task. Yet, there are multiple ways the issue can be approached. Talking openly about sexual assault can encourage deeper understanding. If you see something, do something.
If a situation looks like it could end badly, intervene.
For prevention, Elon implements multiple programs, talks and campaigns to raise awareness of sexual assault on campus.
According to Jessica Clark, the coordinator for violence response for Elon, a few examples of some of these initiatives and programs include Students Promoting Awareness, Responsibility, Knowledge, and Success (SPARKS) peer education — which focuses on educating students on sexual violence and prevention, the “Can I Kiss You?” program and the HAVEN online sexual assault program that all incoming students, first-year, transfer, graduate and law students, are required to complete.
Elon Feminists for Equality, Change, and Transformation (EFFECT), organized a Support Survivors Week and the Walk Against Victim Blaming earlier this semester. Additionally, Students Promoting Awareness, Change and Empowerment (SPACE), is a new student group that is dedicated to ending sexual violence at Elon.
Elon also has SAFEline, a confidential phone line that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for community members concerned about or experiencing identity-based bias or discrimination, sexual assault or stalking.
For victims who may want to go outside Elon for help, CrossRoads, a sexual assault response and resource center, is located in Burlington.
Ann Cahill, professor of philosophy, is proud of all that has been accomplished at Elon but acknowledges that there is room for more collaboration.
“We know there’s a need because survivors of sexual assault still think twice about telling their story to a friend, a counselor or a university official,” Cahill said. “We need to work harder as a community to earn the trust of survivors and to learn to respond to disclosures of sexual assault with compassion, effective assistance and understanding.”
Clark explained that if the awareness and education of sexual assault are spread, two goals must be achieved. The first is to create an environment supporting and believing survivors by letting them know that it is not their fault. The second goal is to encourage efforts to prevent sexual assault, such as ending victim blaming, obtaining consent and engaging in bystander intervention, to keep everyone accountable for the community’s safety.
Elon stands together against sexual as- sault in our community. If everyone became more involved, imagine what could be done to stop sexual assault on campus.
We need collaborations to go beyond just committees and organizations — we need to reach to every corner of campus. We need to engage the rest of Elon on becoming educated on the issues surrounding sexual assault and have them join the mission to take it on. It’s on all of us.