Many of you know that April has begun, and spring is in the air, but the month of April has a deeper meaning to individuals who have experienced sexual assault. April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and it is an important issue to understand and talk about on a college campus like ours. Sexual assault on college campuses does happen, and we want to make sure that our students know about sexual assault and what they can do if they are sexually assaulted. National studies have found that an average of 1 in 5 women on college campuses are sexually assaulted. Keep in mind that this does not mean that 1 in 5 women on our campus will be sexually assaulted as this is a nationwide statistic. If you are curious about the statistics at WNMU you can visit the website for campus police, which has information about crimes on campus.
Sexual assault on college campuses has been a hot topic for many years. But let’s go back and define sexual assault. Sexual assault can occur in a number of different situations, like coercion, through the use of substances like alcohol or drugs, it also includes groping, rape, exhibitionism, and even kissing. If someone forces you to have sex with them by saying that they will tell your significant other if you didn’t, that is considered sexual assault. If you have been drinking and are unable to give consent, that is considered sexual assault. Sexual assault is not only physical, but things like sexting or voyeurism are still considered sexual harassment. If you are ever unsure of what constitutes sexual assault, seek information through the school counselor or a sexual assault hotline.
Another important aspect to understand about sexual assault is that 2 in 3 sexual assault victims know their attacker. This can sometimes make it difficult for a victim to report their assault, for fear of retaliation, or fear of losing friends close to the attacker, or even losing the attacker as a friend. Keep in mind though, anyone who is friend would never do anything to hurt you, and anyone who sexually assaults you is no friend. For those of you in a relationship, you still have the choice of whether or not to consent to sexual activities with your partner. Even though you’re dating, or married, you still have the right to say no, and if you are forced, that is considered sexual assault. Your partner cannot force you into sexual activity just because they are your partner.
I’m sure many of you have heard of Title IX, but how many of you really understand this law? Title IX is a gender equity law that states that any school receiving federal funding has to investigate any reports of sexual assaults on their campus. There are other topics that are discussed within this law, but this is the one that pertains specifically to sexual assaults on campus. There are a few major ideas that all college students should know about Title IX. This law requires public schools to develop and implement a procedure of responding to sexual assault or misconduct cases on campus. Schools must ensure that the victim does not need to share a dorm, classes, or jobs with their assailant, and are also about to issue a non-contact directive to prevent the assailant from interacting with the victim. Schools cannot retaliate against a victim reporting sexual assault, and must keep complainant safe from harassment. WNMU has a Title IX Coordinator who handles the investigation of sexual assault and misconduct on our campus.