In October 2017, the #MeToo movement went viral after a series of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein surfaced. It was a pivotal time in history in which women and men in the entertainment industry took to social media their experiences, insights, and convictions regarding the pressing issue. Movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp have given victim-survivors a platform and the encouragement to speak up about their own unfortunate encounters. The amount of people who have shared online goes to show how huge of the problem sexual violence is.
Statistics show that one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. In the United States, one in three women and one in six men have encountered some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. In campuses, 20% to 25% of college women and 15% of college men are victims of forced sex during their stay in college; and nearly two-thirds of college students experience sexual harassment. These numbers are unsettling, to say the least, and it makes one wonder how campuses tackle sexual violence.
Universities and colleges have both the responsibility and the opportunity to address sexual violence, however, how they tackle this issue varies widely. Some institutions have made it difficult for victims to report their assault and find justice. In 2014, Harvard Law School ended up settling a sexual assault case that involved two students. The Department of Education later found out that the law school failed to comply with the federal rules governing how sexual assault cases must be handled. Harvard then made changes on how they address sexual assault reports.
On the other hand, there are campuses that adopted innovative approaches to tackling the issue. University of Kentucky’s The Green Dot program, for example, trains students to intervene and diffuse dangerous situations. It has been found to decrease the frequency of assault on campus by 50 percent. However, most of the existing programs in campuses are limited in terms of the overall attendance, the time allotted for the courses, and the topics covered. Seeing the limitations of the existing preventive programs, the authors of a study on sexual assaults on campus proposed a set of prevention programs called “Straight Talk about Sexual Assault.” The program includes mandatory courses for both men and women.
The topics proposed for the mandatory courses for men and women are similar, and include the following:
- Legal definitions of sexual assault as determined by state laws
- Self-esteem, self-worth, self-value education, and respect for one’s self and women
- Guest speakers who were victims of sexual assault
- Importance of bystander intervention
- Support services available on campus
- High-risk situations that lead to increased risk of sexual assault
- Procedures for reporting sexual assault cases
- Self-defense and martial arts training
With the number of sexual violence cases still growing, campuses are accountable to form solutions. There is indeed a great need for more comprehensive and sensitive solutions to the problem. When education is key, educational institutions have the opportunity and responsibility to step forward.
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