Sexual assault and misconduct is a major problem occurring on college campuses. While there are many resources for victims and the education system has become more aggressive on sexual assault cases in college than they were decades ago, it still happens. According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network or RAINN, every 98 seconds someone becomes a victim of sexual abuse in the U.S..
That means 570 Americans become victims of sexual assault every day. Female college-aged students between the ages of 18 and 24 are at an elevated risk of sexual violence.
Male college-aged students are 78 percent more likely to experience sexual assault than non-students in the same age group.
Recently, Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, made an announcement she wanted to make changes in how schools handle sexual assault victims. DeVos called to revise rules the Obama administration put out regarding school sexual assault.
While DeVos did not go into full detail about what specific changes she is going to make, she did express the changes she wanted to see happen. In a speech she gave at George Mason University, she expressed the need to have a balance of how schools handle sexual assault with both the reporting party and the accused.
She emphasized the need to protect the rights of the accused and to make sure they receive the due process of law. In her speech, she also mentioned the first amendment, saying punishing free speech by labeling it as harassment is unfair. She also criticized Obama’s approach to handling sexual assaults and protecting victims “went too far.”
While I do agree with her that both the victim and the accused need to be heard out and put through a fair trial, I think DeVos “went too far” with her approach to protecting the accused.
First and foremost, most of the people accused of sexual assault and sexual misconduct were actually guilty of it.
According to a decade-long study done by Violence Against Women, between two and 10 percent of the people reported for sexual assault were falsely accused. While it would be great to have no victims of false sexual assault accusations, making an effort to protect the two to 10 percent by making it harder for victims to get justice is not the way to go.
Doing so only protects the majority of the accused who have actually committed the acts and only creates more obstacles for the victims.
Her statement about free speech was also out of line. While it is okay to express your opinion on a matter, whether you agree or disagree with it, verbal sexual harassment is never okay. Saying sexual innuendos to a victim or referring to a person in a sexually derogative way should not be compared to free speech.
According to psychiatrists from Harvard University, a report suggests verbal abuse, whether sexual or otherwise, can be just as harmful as physical and sexual abuse.
The report published in the Harvard Mental Health Letter suggests that when verbal abuse is constant and severe, it increases the risk of someone getting post traumatic stress disorder.
It also increases the risk factor for other mental illnesses such as “depression, anger-hostility, and dissociation disorders.”
When it makes a person feel uncomfortable and vulnerable sexually, it should be dealt with to prevent future traumas.
No type of sexual abuse or harassment is okay. If DeVos plans to rescind some of Obama’s sexual assault policies, it will affect student victims everywhere, including Keene State College.
The best way to combat DeVos’ unfair approach is for students to express their frustration for this proposal.
Writing to DeVos, speaking up and educating the public about school sexual assault is a powerful way to prevent these changes from happening.
For KSC students who want to learn more about sexual violence and how to prevent it, Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) and Sexual Assault and Violence Education (SAVE) are great resources.
A KSC student who has experienced or witnessed sexual violence and abuse can go to the Counseling Center, talk with MCVP or the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention, Campus Safety, the Title IX coordinator or contact your resident director or resident assistant.
Katherine Glosser can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org