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New stats on college sexual assault

September 25, 2015

This week, the Association of American Universities released one of the largest college campus sexual violence surveys which found that over 20 percent of female undergraduate respondents said they were victims of sexual assault and misconduct this year.

With information collected from 150,000 students at 27 higher education institutions, including big name universities and most of the Ivy League, results hit home for the Monmouth College campus as its own issues regarding sexual assault prevention come to light.

Dean Condon, Vice President of Student Affairs said, “People who think that nothing happens here are naïve. We are not unlike other campuses, but we are striving to be better all the time.”

A major factor in student perception of sexual assault lies in misunderstanding of the definition of sexual assault and the need for consent despite circumstances.

The Monmouth College Harassment Policy defines sexual assault/sexual violence as “a particular type of sexual harassment that includes physical acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to inappropriate touching, fondling, incest, sexual intercourse of any kind without consent, rape, attempted rape and statutory rape.”

While many view sexual assault as violently forced sexual intercourse, by the definition stated in the policy, sexual assault also encompasses situations in which an individual takes advantage of another when in a state unable to give consent, such as under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Trudi Peterson, department chair of the communication studies and coordinator of the women’s studies program, said, “The gray area in people’s definition of consent is even called gray rape. We need more programming on alcohol, consent and what constitutes consent. If both parties are impaired, there’s just more room for trouble in those instances with misreading of cues. The Office of Student Life is trying by doing the programming that they think is best, but I don’t think we can ever have too much training for this issue.”

Currently, the Office of Student Life provides information about sexual violence prevention and bystander awareness through training Residence Life staff, students and employees. RESPECT brochures, consent posters and programs are also mediums used to educate the student body on the topic of sexual assault.

Although these resources are available, the extent to which these methods successfully reach students remains debatable. “The prevention of sexual assault or the ways to seek help if an assault happens is not spread effectively,” said senior Danielle Cummings. “There are several posters in the halls, but very few students will take the time to read them thoroughly. Also, I would have no idea how to seek help because I have never been informed on the steps to take and who to go to. Our study body needs to be informed more on sexual assault, the prevention of it and how to seek help.”

Students actively involved in organizations that offer sexual assault prevention training view the situation through a different lens. “There are plenty of programs and organizations that seek to educate students,” said senior Patrick Crawford. “Do I feel that these are truly effective? From what I can see, yes. But I’m involved in one of those active and aware communities, and I’m sure that there are people on campus that are only vaguely aware of the laws regarding consent, if at all. Malicious or not, these are the people that are most likely to commit a sexual assault. I think that finding a way to educate them is a problem at Monmouth because it is a problem everywhere.”

Flaws remain in the methods of communicating information about sexual assault at Monmouth College, but the Office of Student Life encourages suggestions to improve approaches. “This year, I believe we have improved from last year’s sexual assault awareness,” said junior Neddy Velez, Head Resident of Liedman Hall. “I am a strong believer in always improving.”

“It is up to us as a community to continue the conversation on sexual assault and make sure students understand it is important to seek out this information that the college provides,” said senior Amber Berge, Head Resident of Peterson Hall. “Monmouth College is our home and our family, and we should treat it that way.”

To report sexual assault or situations requiring emotional support and assistance confidentially, the Friends Hotline is available 24/7 by dialing 309-337-3160.

Julianna Graf
Editor In Chief

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