By Caleb Diehl /// Editor-In-Chief
The guilt, shame and fear of sexual assault is not a math problem, but the numbers are still chilling. Nationwide, one in five women and one in 16 men in college are sexually assaulted. Ninety-five percent of those assaults go unreported. 40 percent of survivors fear reprisal from their attackers.
At last, federal and state governments are taking action. Last week, California became the first state to require students to get consent, verbal or nonverbal, before sex. Also last week, President Barack Obama launched the “It’s On Us” campaign. On itsonus.org, students can pledge that non-consensual sex counts as sexual assault, learn how to stop sexual offenses, and unlock tools to campaign for awareness.
By tapping into both of these initiatives, Lewis & Clark students can support the nationwide movement. First, recognize that it’s a no-brainer to import the California law to Oregon. Despite a comprehensive policy that defines non-consensual sexual activity as sexual assault, LC fares about as well other Oregon schools. The most recent online statistics show that Oregon State University reported four forcible sex offenses in 2012. LC reported 10 in 2013, eight of those in dorms. For 2012, the University of Oregon reported 17 forcible sex offenses.
The California law expands important legal protections for victims. It’s also a deterrent: Even if potential assailants don’t understand the legal implications of their actions, they’re more likely to seek consent if it’s the law. Most important, the law makes it easier for victims in California to prove in court that they were sexually assaulted. Victims no longer have to prove they said, “no.” Instead, it falls on the accused to prove they got consent.
Second, students should engage with “It’s On Us.” Through It’s on Us, the White House is framing the conversation in terms of individual responsibility. We’re all accountable for stopping sexual assault. The meat of the campaign is an organizing toolkit that gives student leaders guidelines for promoting events, sending social media messages and talking with peers. It even comes with a guide to typography, so the message not only sounds the same, but looks the same, across the nation. Grounded in the fundamentals of social media and grassroots organizing, the toolkit is essential for concerned LC students.
As college students, we hold unique leverage with policy makers. Student voices should be the ones that matter to legislators. Write to your Oregon representatives and urge them to consider taking a hint from California (it doesn’t hurt that everyone at LC hails from the Bay Area.) Break out that toolkit and start sending tweets, campaigning, and hosting events. Go beyond the statistics. It’s on Us. It’s on LC.