Discourse / Editorials / May 6, 2015

Thoughts from the embers: Sexual assault deserves attention

As Knox prepares for the close of another academic year, sexual assault issues on campus are again taking center stage. Rather than waiting for flare-ups to take the opportunity to address students’ concerns, the administration needs to take a more proactive stance in combating rape culture.

Transparency and visibility are needed if the climate for sexual assault survivors is ever going to improve on campus. As important as informational workshops are to raise awareness and understanding on campus, they cannot create a progressive environment on their own.

While it is important that consent and available resources are emphasized during Orientation Week, Knox needs to go beyond providing initial information. As a nationwide emphasis on sexual assault grows stronger, the emphasis at Knox should reflect that. This would also mean that having only one information session for a four-year student is not sufficient.

These policies can only evolve with ongoing campus discussions. The same hype that surrounded Jackson Katz’s visit to campus and the Dare to Care program needs to return to campus. These concepts are important on a year-round basis and do not need a big name speaker to deserve campus attention.

The first thing the administration can do is commit to publishing the aggregate results of all sexual misconduct investigations on a term-by-term basis. This step is necessary for improving campus culture to improve administration accountability, and it furthers this dialogue on campus.

Currently, this information has only been released for the 2013-2014 academic year, without term-by-term updates. By updating the campus about the number of investigations and their outcomes, the administration is constantly reminded about the importance of adjudicating claims quickly and effectively. It also helps close the stigma gap created by publishing sexual assault reports in the paper without mentioning that many of the allegations are upheld by an investigation.

However, the other part of the culture shift that needs to occur at Knox is the continual support of survivors. Simply dumping a list of resources on a person who has just reported a traumatic event is neither effective nor complete. In lieu of the idealistic budgetary ability to staff someone who could be in charge of confidentially aiding survivors with accessing the various resources offered by the state, college and outside groups, Knox needs to set up the framework for support groups to succeed. This year’s survivor support group was a good start, but it cannot possibly shoulder this responsibility on its own.

To combat this problem, the campus as a whole needs to be empowered to have conversations on rape culture and supporting survivors. Events like this week’s Take Back the Night are wonderful examples of national movements coming to Knox, but these events should serve as spring boards for smaller, more focused breakout events that are specific to Knox’s campus. The poster campaign demonstrating KPA’s sexual assault demands show that conversations surrounding the need to improve campus life are ongoing, but if they are limited to specific clubs these conversations will never be as inclusive as they need to be. However, the trigger warnings added to the posters later point to a lack of communication on campus and poor planning.

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  policy reform sexual assault survivors take back the night transpa workshops

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