Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This piece was done during sexual assault awareness month. The assignment was to report and write on how much the community knew about the issues of sexual assault and the events pertaining to awareness on the Salve Regina University campus.

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In recent news, the question that is often raised is, “where can I be safe?” In regards to all events across the world prominent examples including Colorado, California, and France, the general population has to fight against living in fear. The truth is that no single place in the world is “safe,” but the fact still remains that light will always drive out darkness. I have been, and continue to be, a firm believer that through suffering, we are able to see the light. We leave our safety in the hands of law enforcement and military, and trust that they will do their job in keeping us safe. But in regards to domestic safety, we are often left feeling alone and vulnerable to the violent acts that occur in our homes.

As sexual assault awareness month comes to a close, there remains to be a lack of awareness on the issue at Salve Regina University. Being that two of the core values of the Sisters of Mercy are non-violence and women, it is shocking that there remains to be a serious lack of education in regards to sexual assault awareness.

When asked, less than half of the students interviewed knew anything regarding the topic of sexual assault. Student Victoria Moore did not know about sexual assault awareness month, but said that she feels, “It happens more than it should.” Another student, John Burke was not aware of sexual assault awareness month itself.

Despite the plan for a teach-in last Friday, organized by “The Sisterhood,” many students were unaware of this proposal or the significance of this past month in general. “The Sisterhood” sent their message out early last week, demanding a teach-in for sexual assault awareness Friday of that week; although their efforts showed no lack of importance, many of the faculty at Salve felt that there was a lack of communication of their part and that there was no time to change the curriculum this close to the end of the semester. One faculty member specifically voiced that if there was an issue of sexual assault, it would have already been taken care of.

One of the events planned by “The Sisterhood” was a discussion panel held Thursday night, which included members, as well as faculty, staff, and other students. After attending the discussion panel, it is very clear to see that there is no only a lack of education among the Salve Regina community, but there is also a lack of support for the victims on campus.

According to statistics, around the world, at least one in every three women has been abused in her lifetime. A U.S. Justice Department study adds that two-thirds of violent acts against women are committed by someone the woman knows.

Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School studies explains this cycle of domestic violence. He says, “Eventually there’s sort of this wearing down for people on the receiving end of the abuse where they continue to tolerate more and over time feel less entitled to safety.” He continues to explain how many victims end up rationalizing the abusive behavior, “People come to accept subtler forms of physical abuse at first, and very often it’s both people in the relationship who are doing that sort of thing. It’s of course both partners’ responsibility to establish a sense of emotional and physical safety in the relationship. But the responsibility of a person who lashes out in such a violent manner falls entirely to that person.” Along with this, numerous studies have been done regarding violence against women, including those explained in the Journal of Family Violence discussing why domestic violence and violence against women is downplayed as a result of women staying with their abusers.

Although men are not exempt from violence and abuse, domestic violence is primarily a crime against women. In 2001, women accounted for 85% of the victims of domestic violence, while men accounted for 15%.

Other than the obvious emotional and physical damages caused to women who are subjected to abuse, it is tremendously fiscally damaging. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the cost of violence against women in 1995 exceeded an estimated $5.8 billion. When updated in 2003, costs exceeded $8.3 billion, which included $460 million for rape, $6.2 billion for physical assault, $461 million for stalking, and $1.2 billion in the value of lost lives.

According to studies done by the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey taken in 2010, approximately 27.3% of women have experienced abuse and violence this year and that number is currently escalating dramatically; twenty-four women experience violence in the United States alone every minute.

Regardless of the lack of knowledge on the Salve Regina campus, the students all had strong reactions when presented with the statistic that approximately 386 female Salve Regina students, or at least one woman per day, will be assaulted in the next academic school year. “I think that’s very surprising and very scary that even on a small campus, sexual assault is a real thing and it’s dangerous,” said Salve student Sarah Kraus.

The statistics presented this past month have alarmed many members of the Salve Regina community, but to be alarmed is not nearly enough. The fact that women in our own community are being subjected to this violence is appalling. If the numbers are so shocking to the members of this community, then we need to do everything that we can to change them. This problem is often overlooked, excused, or denied; by overlooking violence against women, we are only encouraging it. It is disheartening to hear that members of our community, which is founded under the mission of the Sisters of Mercy, have chosen to push this issue away and look at it, not as an epidemic that continues to affect members of our community, but more like a fashion trend that will fade out on its own. By taking the issue of sexual assault lightly, we are allowing it to continue and by that routine, the statistics will continue to rise. No one should need to live in fear, or be treated like anything less than what they are, which is valued and worthy of respect.

The Salve Regina community needs to take what “The Sisterhood” is saying very seriously, and understand that we as a community need to be proactive. By holding panels and workshops, implementing sexual assault awareness into the curriculum, training Title IX experts and councilors equipped to help victims, we will be one step closer to eradicating this issue and creating a safer environment for our community.

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