Sixty-four college campuses are now under investigation for Title IX complaints related to sexual violence, and the number keeps growing.
And it’s about time – administrators nationwide have been mishandling sexual assault complaints for far too long.
Emma Sulkowitz, a senior at Columbia has vowed to carry around a dorm mattress until she no longer has to go to school with her alleged rapist. Columbia administrators dismissed her claim that she was sexually assaulted in her dorm room her sophomore year, and have adamantly refused to allow any investigation.
“Carry that weight” is what she is calling her display; many people call it a protest, but she prefers to see it as a work of art. In an interview with Today, Sulkowitz mentions that she will be using this as her senior thesis project as well as a statement as to how the university has handled the situation.
Sulkowitz has made national headlines and gotten incredibly positive responses. This brave young woman is standing up to her administrators, refusing to be dismissed to avoid embarrassing press headlines.
Unfortunately, she is one of few.
Sixty-four colleges are under investigation for sweeping claims under the rug in the interest of public relations. From the looks of it, rape allegations are more about maintaining the good graces of the public, and less about the safety of students.
Colorado State wasn’t on that list – one of the only universities in Colorado to be exempt from investigation – but was later added as part of the proactive compliance review. And while I applaud that administrators here have apparently failed to violate Title IX, I don’t think that means they have handled every sexual assault claim flawlessly. I am not naive enough to think that there aren’t survivors on campus still stung by interviews with CSU administrators and failing to see swift, appropriate action being taken.
We may not be under investigation, but that doesn’t mean that we can afford to think that this University doesn’t contribute to “rape culture.”
Nationwide, there is a fair amount of blaming the victim – shaming those that choose to dress in what others deem “slutty” or choose to walk alone at night. Because, after all, didn’t she contribute to what happened if she was intoxicated, or alone or scantily clad?
Oftentimes sexual assault claims that land on the desks of the higher-ups are taken with a grain of salt because while, yes, this is a terrible thing that happened, the victim has to assume his or her fair share of the blame, right?
We can make freshmen watch all the EDU’s that we want about how, regardless of how people dress or act or what level of intoxication they are at, no one is ever “asking for it.” And I applaud the Women and Gender Advocacy Center for everything that they do, especially their Consent Turns Me On campaign, aimed at helping people understand what consent means and how to obtain it.
President Obama and Vice President Biden recently joined university leaders and other organizations to launch the “It’s On Us” campaign, aimed at making prevalent the understanding that “it’s on us – all of us – to fight campus sexual assault.”
But until this understanding permeates every student on every campus, and until colleges become less interested in negative press and more interested in the safety of students, sexual assault on college campuses will continue.
It’s on us, Rams. Let’s do our part to end sexual violence on campus.
Collegian Columnist Brittany Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org