Gatepost Editorial: Everyday defense against sexual assault

With the reported sexual assaults from this past weekend, and several media outlets’ subsequent descent on campus, FSU community members have been discussing sexual assault and related issues all week.

But what do we actually know about sexual assault on college campuses?

According to oneinfourusa.org, one in four college women said in “multi-campus surveys sampling thousands of college students nationwide” that they have survived either a rape or an attempted rape in their lifetime, but only 11 percent have reported attacks.

People may be wondering what the school has offered students as resources for this issue.
Before these attacks were reported, FSU administrators and departments were pushing to promote sexual assault awareness and to make resources available to students who may need them. More resources and forums, such as open discussions and tables with information about places to report incidents or to get counseling, were made available to students this week after information about the report was sent out to the community.

Making resources available to students who have been victims of sexual violence is absolutely an important use of school resources. It’s obviously imperative that the school do what it can to help students who have been attacked.

Likewise, it’s important that there are preventative measures offered to students to make sure they can stay safe on and off campus. Training sessions like “Bringing in the Bystander” offer actual ways in which FSU members can intervene in potential sexual assault situations. The self-defense classes offered allow students to protect themselves and fight back.

While we at The Gatepost appreciate the efforts on campus to make information and guidance available to help students stay safe or who would benefit from assistance after a rape or assault, we think the fact that the percentage of attacks reported is so low shows that there is still a systematic problem.

There are many issues which contribute to incidents not being reported, but one main concern arises from the fear of the way peers will react toward the person reporting. Since the alleged assaults were made public in the police bulletin Monday, there has been a shocking amount of backlash on social media from Framingham State students who are blaming the woman for wearing tight clothing or being drunk.

Is it the school’s responsibility to react to these accusatory responses? Some may argue no.
We at The Gatepost argue that when educating students about statistics and safety procedures, there should also be discussions about victim-blaming and slut-shaming. Additionally, there should be conversations about the ways in which men, transgender individuals and people who don’t identity with a gender deal with sexual assault.

The Gatepost eBoard would like to see even more concrete suggestions teaching students how they can be safe and defend themselves and each other beyond just suggesting using the buddy system. The bystander training sessions and self-defense classes are a good start, but the school has a responsibility to offer more and more practical programs like these.

We would also like to see broader discussions that include more of the campus community talking about some of the deeper issues behind sexual assault.

Ultimately, though, the people who are slut-shaming, victim-blaming or belittling sexual assault victims aren’t the ones who would be attending these kinds of discussions. In order to reach the people perpetuating the problem, it becomes students’ responsibility on a daily basis to speak up when sexist, hateful and objectifying comments are being said – even when it’s meant “as a joke.”

It’s not funny. It’s not cool. It’s cruel. And it creates a culture that makes victims fear reporting their attackers.

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