An open letter to administration : Sexual assault a campus-wide problem

To whom it may concern,

I want to discuss an important and pertinent issue with you — one that is affecting students across the nation. It is an issue many ignore or deny even exists: Rape and sexual violence on campus.

It is happening on campuses across America, and it is happening on ours.

There is a sexual assault crisis on our nation’s campuses. Avoiding the issue, naming it as something else entirely, or denying its existence only does a disservice to those who have experienced rape or sexual violence.

I’m sure you read the news, and think of yourself as an educated person. You might even consider yourself to be a good person — someone who is willing to stand up in the face of oppression and injustice.

So why then are so many university and college administrations allowing rape and sexual violence to be as pervasive as it is? Why are they allowing admitted rapists to roam the campus and expelling victims? Why are respected journalists chronicling the mass failures of campuses around the nation? Because it is a problem.

It is NOT the victim’s fault. It is NOT my problem as a woman to keep myself safe or be blamed for my rape because I didn’t scream loud enough or because I didn’t fight back enough.

We are teaching our women they are victims, and as victims, anything they do will not be good enough for people to believe them.

We are teaching our men they cannot control themselves because their biology doesn’t allow them. We are normalizing rape and we are victim blaming and shaming.

Rape isn’t just about protecting females; 6 percent of men will be victims of an attempted or completed sexual assault. This is an issue of consent, and it is something many do not understand.

A male student recently told me a professor on the MSUM campus made a comment that the price of a good time is taking a woman out for a few drinks. Is that what we want our educators saying to students? Joking about getting an individual intoxicated so they can be taken advantage of?

Consent goes both ways, men and women are both equally capable of sexual violence. Unfortunately it is mainly women who are the victims of this horrendous crime.

Campus administrators fail their students when they ignore the fact rape culture exists; it is a culture that refuses to acknowledge sexual violence is a problem, believes that men can’t control themselves and normalizes sexually violent behavior.

In a recent sexual violence study, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found 15 percent of females and 25 percent of males guilty of victim blaming when the victim admitted to drinking. The study also found overwhelming evidence that students who had been victims of sexual violence were unsure what actually constituted sexual violence.

How can this be? I’ll refer you to my previous paragraphs. I trust you can find a possible answer.

Currently 86 campuses are under federal investigaion, 12 of which are under special investigation for “compliance reviews” by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Here are just a few examples of how campuses are failing to protect their students and ending up under investigation for the mishandling of rape and sexual assault accusations:

1) A University of Virginia dean confessed students who have admitted to rape and sexual assaults were not expelled. This is after a lengthy journalistic investigation into the brutal gang rape of an 18-year-old woman at one of the most respected fraternities on campus. Her rape was a part of a hazing ritual for students rushing the fraternity.

2) After a female student was raped in her dorm room and Columbia University dismissed her case, she carried around her mattress in protest as a symbol of the emotional weight she carried. Students joined her, and in their final act left the mattress on the lawn of the university president, who fined them $471 in clean up fees.

3) Ramapo College held a seminar in which the speaker accused females for inviting sexual violence and lectured them on how to avoid sexual assault.

4) Virginia Wesleyan College told a student who had been raped that she “exhibited poor judgment.”

5)The University of Wisconsin at Madison Police Department encouraged individuals to “not look like victims” in order to avoid rape and sexual assaults.

6) At the University of Toledo, a student found guilty of rape was fined $25 and allowed to return to campus.

7) The University of Connecticut paid $1.3 million in restitution to five rape victims in order to avoid having to admit any wrong-doing in the way they mishandled rape allegations.

Should I go on?

Students are fighting back. They want to be informed, they want to be safe, and they want their campuses to help them educate others about rape, sexual violence, and consent.

This isn’t just a women’s issue; it’s a student body issue, and it affects both women and men negatively.

We can be a powerful voice for change, but if we remain neutral about sexual violence on campus we are just as much a part of the problem.

Campuses should be encouraging positive discourse about consent and educating about it, not teaching students how to avoid being raped.

I truly hope that you understand and are willing to take the appropriate steps to help keep students safe.

Sincerely,

Janessa A. Marquette

A proud MSUM student

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