Sexual assault. These two words bring on some powerful and intense emotions, yet its discussion is one many still shy away from.
“(Sexual assault) is a problem for all campuses; one in five women will experience sexual assault and (so will) one in 16 men,” said Jenna Tripodi and Jessica Haymaker, educators and advocates at the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education.
So if it affects so many, why do people still shy away from discussing it?
For students to begin having conversations about this topic, they must first be able to recognize that it is an relevant issue and treat it as one.
“It’s important to challenge people to stop saying it’s just a word; it has become a way to minimize and completely deny that our language affects our actions, our behavior, our understandings and how we conceptualize societal problems,” Haymaker said.
According to Haymaker, this isn’t the only thing that society should be doing to fully understand this issue.
“We have to address a lot of myths,” Haymaker said. “In order to properly educate, you have to debunk those.”
The myth that victims should have done something to prevent their assault is one of the common myths Tripodi and Haymaker said many people believe.
To combat this issue and break the cycle of myths, Tripodi said society must learn to channel its energy and efforts into educating itself.
“On the education side of our work, we teach students, faculty and staff about how they can educate themselves on sexual violence and how they can be active bystanders,” Tripodi said.
One way Tripodi and Haymaker expand their message campus-wide is through the It’s On Us campaign, which was adopted and personalized to the campus by CARE. Its goal is to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual violence, as well as to educate others about the importance of being an active bystander.
Tripodi said no one is immune to this act of violence and anyone can be a victim.
One group that has often fallen under harsh scrutiny regarding this issue is the greek community.
According to Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, 10 percent of college rapes took place in a fraternity house. Research conducted on the topic of rape myth acceptance culture in greek life by the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice states that fraternity men are more likely to commit rape than other college men, while women in sororities are 74 percent more likely to experience rape than other college women. Also, women who live in the sorority house are over three times as likely to experience rape.
While this is a nationwide problem, it hits close to home as well. Last September, the Huffington Post reported on an incident that occurred at the University of Kansas on the evening of Oct. 13, 2013. A freshman student, under the influence of alcohol supplied at a fraternity party, was assisted by a male classmate back to the dorms where they both lived. The male student later admitted to having nonconsensual sex with her in his dorm room, even after she said “no,” “stop” and “I can’t do this.”
The man was penalized for his crime by being banned from campus housing, punished with probation and sentenced to write a four-page reflection paper. His punishment raised some concerns with students on how stringent their policy is.
Ben Hopper, director of Greek Affairs at K-State, said he understands how prevalent this issue is for all campuses. According to Hopper, this should raise concerns for students due to the number of people impacted by sexual violence nationwide.
“Several chapters have educational programming to educate their members about sexual assault prevention,” Hopper said.
Hopper said there also policies in place that the greek community must abide by.
“The code of ethics policy spells out our greek community’s commitment to upholding strong morals and standards, scholarship, unity, leadership and diversity,” Hopper said.
In addition to greek policies, K-State also has rules in place to protect students’ safety.
“We have a responsibility policy that provides students the tools to effectively plan events that manage risk and reduce harm,” Hopper said.
There are many resources available for victims of sexual assault that range from access to counseling, medical and legal advice services.
“The Office of Greek Affairs is working with partners on campus to educate students that experience sexual violence to utilize the resources on campus to heal from the experience,” Hopper said. “I want students to understand that if you are a victim, you are not alone.”