Student action is needed to prevent sexual assault


Lily Katz

The Women’s Resource Center neighbor’s Coco Mero on Wright St. in Champaign, IL. August 22, 2016.

By Paul Delutio, Columnist

I opened my email a few days ago and was surprised to see yet another campus safety notice.

I knew that things were bound to happen every once and awhile due to the inherent dangers of a college campus, but this was different.

This was the third reported sexual assault within a week, which is an unusual occurrence under any circumstances. Although the situation is undoubtedly grim, which will be addressed momentarily, there is something else that can be said about it.

On a positive note, the fact that each of these crimes were reported to the authorities says that many survivors are no longer staying silent and are using their voices to speak out. The strength and courage required from these individuals to stand up for their human dignity is immense and can never be understated.

The number of sexual assaults that go unreported adds to our culture of complacency, a culture that is willing to accept the imposition of someone else’s will on another and that has no place in the modern age. And this is not to say that survivors who do not report sexual assaults are contributing to this problem. They are just not receiving the support and encouragement needed to speak out and create more awareness.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

So the silver lining has been addressed … but let’s talk about the storm cloud.

To the students of the University: wake up.

Sexual assault on college campuses is a problem rooted in the irresponsibility of a younger generation, who often feel they can pass blame onto the use of alcohol or the survivors themselves.

As students on this campus, it’s time to recognize that we have an obligation to ensure that the people around us, particularly women, are treated with respect, regardless of how they are trivialized sexually by any friends or acquaintances. This is not to say that women are not capable of defending themselves or personally ensuring that they are treated with respect.

In fact, the perpetuation of the idea that sexual assault is reliant on physical domination fails to acknowledge the situational nature of many rapes, especially on college campuses.

In a 2013 panel discussion recently dug up by several news outlets, Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, said, “If (women) were physiologically — not mentally, emotionally, professionally — equal to men, if we were physiologically as strong as men, rape would not exist.”

This concept is dangerous. Conway’s rhetoric implies that brute force is the only measure to counteract sexual assault, but the reality is far different. Many other psychological and situational factors go into the sexual assault epidemic, and perhaps most important among them on college campuses is the lack of bystander intervention.

In many cases, it may seem socially acceptable to stand by while someone else gets too drunk for their own good, and in large groups it’s easy to pass the responsibility off by thinking that someone else will take action and handle the situation. Often, this is not the case, and you have an obligation to help the people around you.

Both men and women have a responsibility to be more than a bystander, and it should not be taken lightly.

I say with confidence that as a bystander, your complacency will never amount to anything. In your lifetime, you will encounter pivotal moments that require you to take action and make a stand, including moments possibly involving sexual assault. Your hesitation is to be expected, but the fear of looking stupid in front of other people can never outweigh the negative impact of an event you could have prevented.

Do what you can to make this campus a safe place for everyone. Take responsibility and make the right call when it matters most.

Paul is a sophomore in LAS. 

[email protected]