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Saturday, September 20, 2014

It's On Us To End Sexual Assault

As a college student, I receive texts and email alerts when there has been a sexual assault on campus.  Often times the message will begin like this… Notice of Sexual Assault:

In compliance with the provisions of the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1988 xxxxxxxx University is giving notice of a Sexual Assault.

On xxxxx, xxxx, 2014 xxx Police were notified of a reported Sexual Assault. The incident took place on or about September x, 2014 at a private residence in the xxx block of xxx Street. The suspect was an acquaintance to the survivor. xxxx Police are investigating this incident.

The notice is followed by a reminder from campus police suggesting dos and don’ts to stay safe:

Be on the lookout for suspicious people who may attempt to isolate someone that is intoxicated or has been drinking.  
Get involved, don’t allow that to happen; when consuming beverages, make or bring your own; Don’t ever accept open beverages or drink beverages that have been mixed by others; Never isolate yourself and let a friend know where you are and who you are with; Attend events with friends as a group; don’t ever leave your friends behind alone;  If you are ever in a situation where you are unsure or scared call xxx Police immediately; Be alert and aware at all times when you are with acquaintances; Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts; Report all suspicious people and circumstances to the xxx Police Department. 

The email usually culminates with contact information and links to various sexual assault and DV services in the area.

It is estimated that one in five women, ages 16-24, will experience a sexual assault on a college campus.

Friday at the White House, both President Obama and Vice President Biden spoke passionately about the issue and announced the launch of, a personal pledge you can take to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault.

President Obama called for college fraternities, sororities, teachers and counselors to talk about the issue of campus sexual assault, as well as to “teach respect for women”. Obama also encouraged women to “speak up when something doesn’t look right”.  

"This is on all of us", the president said. "Every one of us, to fight campus sexual assault.  You're not alone, and we have your back", adding that campuses around the country are organizing to understand what campus assaults are about.   

"We're going to put a stop to it", the president said. 

Change the culture. Change the attitudes.

Vice President Biden, who has been at the forefront of the Violence Against Women Act, and the One Is Too Many (1is2Many) campaign admonishes men to "step up", and "take the lead" in the fight against sexual assault.  

"Violence against women isn't just a women's issue alone", Biden said. "It's a men's issue." 

The launch of ItsOnUs comes at a pivotal moment in our culture when sexual assault and domestic violence transcends college campuses, into the realm of everyday life, including law and sports.  

The NFL has been riddled lately with accounts of assaults and domestic violence incidents that included a video of Baltimore Raven Ray Rice who was seen knocking out Janay Palmer his former girlfriend, and now wife.  The video went viral and Rice was suspended from the team.

This and several other incidents in the NFL surrounding violence against women has prompted the NFL to take a look at how the incidents should be handled and what the punishment should be for the perpetrator.  Commissioner Roger Goodell, speaking at a press conference, also on Friday said the league will establish a committee to review NFL personal conduct cases.

What did I do?

Often times the victim, and society, will wonder what did they to cause an assault.  

That question was put to the test earlier this summer when ESPN Analyst Stephen A. Smith, suggested that women need to become aware of items that could "provoke" abuse from a man.  Smith was subsequently suspended for two weeks, and issued several apologies.

"It is NEVER", get this straight", exclaimed Biden, "Never the right question for a woman to ask, "what did I do?"  Said Biden, "the question is, why was that done to me, and will someone do something about it?" 

Attitudes about women and their roles in society have often been debated.

Nikhil Bhai, a doctor visiting Washington from the Europe, in our conversation with him, told us that women should focus more on being like women, and not being like men, suggesting that there is a power conflict between the two sexes.

"A man’s world is where women want to be", said Bhai. “Let’s not be like men, rather exercise your strengths as a woman”, he said.

While Bhai’s seemingly archaic views have taken the efforts of the women’s suffrage movement back to prehistoric times, to his credit, both his wife and daughter are doctors, but suggest the pressures stemming from a professional career can put undue stress on the family structure.

Perhaps it is these types of attitudes that continue to help foster patterns of unproductive views and overall attitudes toward women and girls that needs to be changed.

Abuse - know the signs. Know your rights.

BreaktheCycle, an organization geared toward empowering youth to end domestic violence (including sexual assaults) recommends knowing these warning signs of a potential abuser:

·         Checking cell phones, emails or social networks without permission
·         Extreme jealousy or insecurity
·         Constant belittling or put-downs
·         Explosive temper
·         Isolation from family and friends
·         Making false accusations
·         Erratic mood swings
·         Physically inflicting pain or hurt in any way
·         Possessiveness
·         Telling someone what to do
·         Repeatedly pressuring someone to have sex

Sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. Know your rights.

See also

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