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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The Battalion May 4, 2024

A letter to the sexual assault task force

It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that sexual assault is a national problem — and perhaps even more so to admit that it is caused by Aggies on campus. But for all the uneasiness, it’s nothing compared to the consequences of ignoring it.
The Challenge
According to the Division of Student Affairs, there have been 32 cases of reported sexual assault, including rape and sexual abuse, since the summer of 2012. The key word here is “reported.” According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization, “just over half of rape victims do not report the crime.”
To A&M’s newly established sexual assault task force, you have a difficult job ahead of you. It’s not enough anymore to just say, “This is a problem.” If you, the task force, want your campaign to be successful, you need to make sure you are tackling the issue with decorum and sensitivity while ensuring the correct information is communicated.
In order for the campaign to be successful, you should tackle four issues: awareness, prevention, interference and reaction.
Awareness
Awareness has been a huge focus of many national campaigns. Obama’s “It’s On Us” campaign was huge in raising national awareness. Awareness includes defining sexual assault.
Part of the reason so many sexual assault cases go unreported is that the victim may be unaware that their experience is even considered sexual assault. Clear definitions — and the simple understanding that sexual assault is a problem at A&M — should be cornerstones of your campaign.
Prevention
Prevention is a topic you need to handle sensitively. You cannot approach it from the perspective of teaching people of all genders how to “not get raped.” Rather, you need to view it from the angle of programs like Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention, SHARP, a self-defense course hosted by the University Police Department (even though that class is specifically for women).
“Prevention,” doesn’t mean teaching men and women how to not get attacked, though. It doesn’t mean sending the message that it’s up to people to hinder their chances of being assaulted. It does mean teaching people how to handle themselves if they are ever faced with the reality of an assault.
Interference
Interference is the next component of the ideal campaign. Many national campaigns feature messages like, “If you see something, say something.” This is a great catch phrase, but you need to look at defining what both of those “somethings” mean. What should people at a party look for in a potentially dangerous setting? What kind of interactions could become harmful? Along with recognizing the signs of sexual assault and harassment, students need to know how to step in.
Your campaign should show how to stand up and protect our fellow Aggies, even when they may not be capable of protecting themselves. The Aggie Honor Code applies outside the classroom and can easily be expanded to apply to this campaign. An Aggie does not lie, cheat, steal (or harm another person) or tolerate those who do.
Reaction
Last but not least is reaction. This goes back to the lack of sexual assault cases that are reported. Many students are unaware of the steps that should be taken following an attack.
You need to make information easily available if something should happen. This is perhaps the least comfortable part to discuss, because to talk about it means to accept that it happened.
Even beyond reporting the crime to the UPD, there are resources available to victims, including counseling. Sexual assault trials, especially those found on college campuses, have garnered a reputation of being incredibly trying and often fruitless. Your campaign needs to reassure students that if something happens to them, proper steps will be taken to ensure that A&M will do everything it can to support the victims. And that needs to be a truthful statement.
I think that a public message and campaign is incredibly important. But it can’t stop there. If the Division of Student Affairs doesn’t follow the message it is trying to send and follows in the unfortunate footsteps of universities like those we’ve heard in the news, then the efforts of your task force won’t mean anything.

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