Columns / Discourse / February 5, 2014

Thoughts From the Embers: Sexual assault on Knox campus, a call to action

EmbersTalking about sexual assault isn’t easy. But frequent reports that bring campus rape culture to the forefront remind us that preventing these incidents should prompt an ongoing campus discussion between students, faculty and staff.

Last week, we reported that five sexual assaults and one attempted sexual assault were reported to Campus Safety late last term. Since then, there has been a flurry of new reports of sexual misconduct: one in last week’s Campus Safety log followed by three this week.

Granted, many of the incidents reported occurred months and even years earlier. An increase in reports does not necessarily indicate a rise in assaults, but an environment that encourages victims to come forward and sends the message that this behavior will not be tolerated.

But at the very least, this trend should give pause to every member of the campus community. While we tend to consider the Knox community to be relatively tight-knit and safe, that’s no excuse for turning a blind eye to sexual assault, misconduct, harassment or whatever designation ends up in the weekly campus crime log.

If you don’t recognize that this is a problem at Knox, you’re likely contributing to the problem.

Fortunately, there is momentum among the student body for this issue to be addressed. The student and staff group Sexual Assault Resource Reform Coalition emerged last fall, filling the gap left by Allies for Sexual Assault Prevention, which will return to campus this spring. More recently, the college has formed the Sexual Harassment Task Force, spearheaded by Associate Dean Lori Schroeder, who was recently named the college’s Title IX coordinator.

Through our coverage of these discussions we hope to inform, and thereby involve, as many Knox students as possible. Through our reporting, we hope to encourage a culture that doesn’t sweep these incidents under the rug.

We also hope to shed some light on the college’s policies and standards for classifying, investigating and communicating sexual assault reports. While last week’s reporting was a start, there’s much work to be done.

Beginning in late November (that is, after the last TKS print issue of fall term), we made multiple requests to Campus Safety for an updated crime log after we caught wind of the string of assaults reported late last term. Those requests were ignored, and we did not receive an update until Jan. 15, the day we produced the first issue of this term. This is not to say that Campus Safety was withholding information. But the incidents were not treated with the kind of urgency Knox students would expect from the college.

We strongly believe that it is the right and privilege of every member of our community to stay informed and be involved. As your newspaper, we are here to keep you informed and in turn, we rely on our administration, faculty and staff to trade the red tape for transparency. And we rely on our readers to be a part of the solution. Attend ASAP’s information sessions on Feb. 7th or Feb. 14th at 4pm in the Gizmo. Better yet, apply to be an ASAP representative. Completed applications and any questions/concerns should be directed to Allie Fry (afry@knox.edu).

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  allies for sexual assault prevention campus safety log lori schroeder rape culture sexual assault sexual assault resource reform coalition

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