Column: Avoiding a ‘Bachelors in Sexual Assault’

While the White House has responded to rape and sexual assault on college campuses, MU’s response as a campus has not been enough.

Rape. Sexual assault.

They are words with blurred meanings. They are misconstrued by lingering traditional reactions and fear.

They were also the cover story of the May 26 edition of TIME magazine. In reading the story, marked by a “RAPE” collegiate pennant, the similarities were too much to ignore. Eliza Gray focused the feature on the college town of Missoula, Montana, the supposed ‘rape capital of America.’ As Gray pointed out, though, it isn’t just the University of Montana, it’s campuses across the nation. That includes Mizzou.

According to a January report by The White House Council on Women and Girls, sexual assault has happened to 20 percent of students. A mere 2.4 percent report the incident.

What’s the big deal in all of this then, one may ask, if it only happens to 20 percent of students? The answer lies in the question precisely. If a perpetrator assaulted a person, there would be no argument. There, society has unambiguous definitions of the victim and the accused in the case of assault. But with rape, with sexual assault, a scary word exposing some flaws in that same society, the definitions are up to interpretation. Between the lines, the victim is pressured in a “blame-the-victim” environment where tradition has led us to say “well, you shouldn’t have walked back alone” or “why didn’t you have pepper spray?” Rather than prejudice, especially on a college campus, we should be offering support, condemning the act and giving our best effort to prevent future occurrences.

The White House issued its own recommendations urging college campuses to not just act, but combat the epidemic of sexual assaults. The list included conducting anonymous sexual assault surveys as well as the adoption of anti-assault policies. President Obama took it a step further, creating the White House Council on Women and Girls in January as well as the resource website

The council produced these recommendations in light of the sexual assault cases in the Navy. Therein I raise this point, if the proudest Navy in the world is not immune to these acts, nothing makes a college campus immune either. In order to prevent these acts later in life, we must axe their origins today, at the foundations of many Americans’ lives: our proud universities and colleges. There I answer the first question: it is unquestionably a big deal.

Also, with it I raise another question: is Mizzou doing enough? Sure, we students may have seen the handful of Emergency phones or have been introduced to the “buddy rule” by Residential Life, but as a campus, what have we put our foot down for? Individual organizations, such as the MU Police Department and the Missouri Students Association have attempted to tackle the issue, and surely so has Greek Life. But the fact of the matter is, it is not enough. Every time you see an incident in a Clery report, multiply that sole incident by ten. The weight of that number, or any number is pure blasphemy.

When the issue is as convoluted as this one, we must act more than we preach, and preach more. As Vice President Joe Biden put it, “You don’t want to be a school that mishandles rape. Guess what? Step up. It’s absolutely time because the moral disapprobation of society is the most powerful tool for effecting change.”

Step up, Mizzou. We say we are One Mizzou. Prove it. We say we are against sexual violence. Prove it. We say we are the greatest campus in the nation. Prove it.

As a campus, it is time to fight back against sexual assault. It’s time to show everyone that we have their backs, whoever they may be, and to show them in One Mizzou, they’re never alone.

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