The dialogue on campus sexual assaults must continue

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Beginning during the 2012–13 school year and lasting into 2014, sexual assault dominated discourse on campus and raised tensions between all factions of the community, from students and faculty to trustees and alumni. Based on limited campus dialogue a year later, it would be easy to assume that the issue had been resolved. But such an appearance is misleading, and speaks to a dangerous apathy in the student body.

Since 2012, Occidental’s administration has said it would take steps to address how it handles sexual assault; just last month, the Title IX Office unveiled a proposed sexual assault misconduct policy and grievance process. Few students, however, seem to still be paying attention to this update, evidenced by the minimal turnout at two information sessions on the policy draft hosted by Title IX Coordinator Ruth Jones Oct. 26 and 27. The firestorm of activism and calls for action that dominated campus two years ago have died down, and no one is questioning the new policies or changes taking place.

But while the activism has dissipated — or at least become less visible — the problem has not. As the 2014 Annual Fire Safety and Security Report, better known as the Clery Report, reveals, eight sexual assaults were reported in 2014. While there were more reported sexual assaults in previous years, eight is still too many. And according to Jones, due to Clery’s limited geographic region and definitions, the actual numbers of assaults could be even higher than those in the report.

Students should not solely focus on eliminating sexual assault on campus, but they also should not abandon the cause when other issues demand attention. If students forsake causes of social justice — and assault is an issue of social justice — before any resolution is reached and when there is still work to be done, then they will not see real, lasting change.

Two years ago, when concerns surrounding sexual assault arose in such a significant way, the charge was largely led by brave survivors willing to speak out about their experiences. That bravery undoubtedly helped the community in pursuing this dialogue that spread to national levels, but we cannot wait for survivors, or demand they be the ones to step forward and maintain this movement. It is the responsibility of the entire community.

 

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