“Me Too” campaign response brings sexual assault into conversation

Katie Weiler December 7, 2017 0

Etown students received another email regarding an alleged sexual assault in the Ober residence hall that occurred last week. Sexual assault is a hot topic of conversation right now, especially on many college campuses. For many it is not an easy thing to talk about. The “Me Too” campaign is about the issue of keeping quiet when someone experiences sexual assault and how it affects the number of people who actually report it. The numbers of reported assaults can be overwhelming, but the number of those that go unreported is a major concern for this campaign.

According to Rainn, the anti-sexual violence organization, one out of every six women in the United States has been the victim of sexual violence. Again, the question of underreporting leaves an air of mystery in this topic. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure Act requires the release of campus crime statistics to the public. While the 2017 statistics for Elizabethtown College are still being recorded, the numbers for the past three years have been consistent.

Crimes reported directly to Campus Security are included in the daily crime logs, but crimes indirectly reported, such as to faculty or other members of staff, are also added to the Clery report for the total crimes per year. For the 2016 year, there were a total of 22 cases of sexual crimes on campus, compared to 20 and 21 in 2015 and 2014, respectively.

“It shows that Etown is taking it seriously,” Vice President of the “It’s On Us” club and sophomore Darby Keller said of the reported statistics. “At some schools when they report it they just tell people to go away.”

The “It’s On Us” club works to end sexual assault on campus. Working along with the Title IX Office, the club provides resources for students to better educate themselves on the matter of sexual violence on campus.

“Their work is very important,” Office of Equity and Title IX coordinator Dr. Armenta Hinton said. “It’s an honor to have the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign represented on this campus.”

The club was originally started by Vice President Joe Biden and spread across the country, specifically for colleges to expand upon the issue of sexual assault.

“We’re providing the opportunity to give a safety net for students,” Keller said.

Regarding all the victims who do not report their encounter, Keller points to the long and costly process that follows reporting sexual assault.

“It can really push you to not report,” Keller said.

All sexual crimes reported on campus must be reported in the Clery Report. The only instance of sexual violence being reported on campus that does not have to be included is in either Counseling Services or the Chaplain’s Office. Both of these places are confidential and provide a spot where students can confide in someone without reporting anything.

Recently, Georgetown University sent a letter to 89 colleges across the nation. Once the colleges decided if they would sign it or not, the letter would be sent to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, stating that the colleges listed did not agree with the changes to Title IX and will still follow the Preponderance of Evidence Standard to have a single person investigate the sexual violence on campus. Earlier this year, after the new guidelines for Title IX were passed, Hinton and other members of administration agreed the College will still follow the previous guidelines.

“We didn’t change it here at Elizabethtown. For us, it’s the law at Elizabethtown,” Hinton said of following the original Title IX guidelines.

The decision Etown’s Student Senate made on the Georgetown letter was to vote against putting the College’s name on the letter.

“The new standard doesn’t change if you investigate, but it may change the outcome,” Hinton said of the Title IX changes.

There are many clubs and events on campus run by both students and faculty dedicated to ending sexual violence. Take Back the Night is an event on campus that features both a rally and a march. During the march around campus, students display that even though it is dark out, there is nothing to be afraid of. Stephanie Diaz, the coordinator of the Take Back the Night event and Interim Coordinator of Multicultural Programs & Residential Communities, has run the event on campus for the past couple of years. In Diaz’s words, the march is to share that the participants are saying, “We belong here too.”

The march was met by cheers such as “however we dress, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no.” Last year’s march led participants to the Mosaic House to listen to students share their stories in a safe space.

“We shouldn’t have to hashtag things to start a conversation,” Diaz said in response to the “Me Too” campaign.

Like many others speaking out online, she thinks the campaign was not inclusive enough since it left out men and transgender people.

“It’s a really good jumping off point,” Diaz said. “I don’t know if the movement was inclusive enough though.”

Diaz is afraid some people on campus have the idea that “Etown is a nice place; bad things don’t happen to us.” In reality, bad things can happen anywhere.

“I think colleges in general have a huge problem with sexual assault,” Diaz said.

“Not a lot of people talk about it which makes it difficult to address it,” Keller said.

The “Me Too” campaign is not associated with the “It’s On Us” group, but it has been a talking point for sexual violence conversations.

“It can be re-traumatizing for a lot of people,” Keller said in response to the “Me Too” campaign.

Involvement on campus can range from activism to just having a conversation with someone.

“A lot of people might not have personal experience, but they feel strongly about it because of someone they know or care about,” Keller said.

Keller explained that the club works to give those that want it a chance to be heard.

“If you don’t feel you’ll be heard, you won’t talk,” Keller said.

In this time of sexual allegations rising from more than just Hollywood, the various efforts on campus urge anyone wanting to have a conversation to visit the Title IX Office for more information or to report any sexual violence.

Another event on campus is the Vagina Monologues. These are a series of monologues from women all over the world that are performed as a part of the worldwide campaign. This event will be held Feb. 23, during the spring semester.

“The monologues themselves are uniform,” Resident Assistant for both the Founders LGBTQ floor and the Stonewall floor, Head Student organizer for the Vagina Monologues and sophomore Caitlin Olivas said. “It’s neat to think that other people in Europe, Australia, Canada are performing and sharing [the] same monologues,” she added.

“It’s really important for our campus to do things outside of our comfort zone,” Olivas said.

Working with the “It’s On Us” and the One Billion Rising campaigns is the underlying statistic that around one billion girls worldwide will experience sexual violence.

“It’s easy to feel powerless with statistics so large,” Olivas said.

In response to the “Me Too” campaign, which also focuses on sexual assault and harassment, Olivas said, “It’s such an important tool for women around the globe to see so many victims around the world and know that they are not alone.”

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