Story by Abigale Racine, Culture Editor
Photo courtesy of It’s on Us
Due to recent events detailed to the student body in an message from Campus Safety found in inboxes, it has been evident that Aquinas College students (both male and female) need to be informed on their rights on acquaintance sexual assaults. It’s on us as a student body, a community, and as individuals to keep men and women safe from sexual assault, hence why Aquinas is introducing It’s On Us, a national awareness campaign supported by President Obama.
This upcoming week on campus, this effort is being introduced to get more college students in the know and to take the pledge against sexual assault.
Statistically, one in five female undergraduate students report sexual assault, while one in seventy-one male students report the same claim. However, the problem with these stats (provided by the Association of American Universities) is that, upon further inspection, only 11 percent of these women were assaulted in a manner consistent with criminal definitions of rape and/or sodomy, meaning that only a fraction of those guilty of sexual assault are punished.
In fact, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), only three percent of rapists ever serve time: and these are the cases that are reported, leaving sexual assault to be a highly under reported crime.
Sexual assault is a prevalent problem, even on Aquinas’s campus, that is too often swept under the rug because it is an uncomfortable and personal topic to discuss.
Rape culture is exercised through our everyday practices and behaviors because it is persuasive and we are taught that this is normal. Comments such as “She was asking for it” or “That test raped me” encourage the abuse of others. Defending others accused of rape and shaming victims only perpetuates the problem.
“I want to say that the It’s On Us campaign has been a goal of the college,” said junior and Student Senate Vice Chairperson Zoë Collenburg. “We want to see students taking leadership and ownership of the issue; from consent training and difficult conversations at Orientation to Title IX training at Senate, and RSO Assembly, Upper Administration, and Senate have worked together to ensure proper information is going out to the student body. Aquinas is not hiding–we are taking a stand to ensure a safer home.”
In their recent email to the public, Aquinas College’s Campus Safety shared some tips to prevent sexual assault from happening to yourself and to others:
- Keep control of your consumption
- Always trust your instincts
- Always have vocal, affirmative consent with sexual partners
- Have a companion or a safe means of getting home, i.e., a trusted friend, taxi, etc., if available.
Lastly, to quote from the public safety advisory released from campus safety, “Sex offenses are treated with the greatest seriousness on our campus; criminal and/or severe disciplinary action can be taken. If a criminal case is brought, we will support you as much as possible as you pursue it. In the case of disciplinary action, it is our college’s commitment that a victim shall be informed of the outcome of any institutional disciplinary proceeding brought alleging a sex offense.”
Action Week starts on campus this upcoming Monday, November 9, beginning with a screening of the documentary The Hunting Ground at 4:30 p.m. in the upper Donnelly Center. This film exposé confronts rape crimes on campus, institutional concealment, and the effects it takes on students and their families. Afterwards, a panel featuring various campus leaders will commence, including Dean of Students Andie Wirgau, Campus Life Director Heather Hall, Campus Safety Director Kevin Kwiatkowski, Area Coordinator Abby Johnson, and more. Campus Ministry and Counseling will be available for the duration of the event.
The It’s On Us Pledge will be available to sign in the Academic Building, Wege and The Moose Café throughout the week. You may see more efforts on campus to take place. As of Wednesday, November 4, First Lady of Michigan Sue Snyder granted Aquinas College a fund of $4,637 to prevent sexual assault on campus.
This semester, educate yourself and take a stand alongside your campus and fight against sexual violence. As said frequently during First Year orientation, take care of each other and take care of this place.
Abigale Racine is a senior studying English, with a focus in journalism. She is the Culture Editor of The Saint and does some freelance work on the side, when she isn’t soaking up the scene that is Grand Rapids.