Editorial: Act now to prevent sexual violence on campus

“On Sept. 9, officials from the University of Missouri’s Title IX office reported a sexual assault to the University Police Department (MUPD).”

I was sitting at my desk in my dorm room when I read this Clery Release email from the MUPD. I knew that these situations occurred from stories I’d heard from my older siblings, and I knew that these emails were sent to notify students on campus safety. However, I didn’t realize how often I would be receiving these emails.

When I read the email reporting a sexual assault that happened on Sept. 5, I was completely shocked that this had happened. It was only the third week of school in the first semester. What was even more shocking was that I received another email only one week later reporting two more rapes. Less than a month later, I received another email reporting two additional rapes.

All of these occurred on campus very late at night or early in the morning. According to the National Institute of Justice, more than half of the sexual assaults committed take place on the weekends and occur between midnight and 6 a.m.

According to an article on Aljazeera America written by Dave Gustafson entitled “By The Numbers: Sex Crimes On Campus,” a 2002 Justice Department report “Acquaintance Rape of College Students” found that 34 percent of completed rapes and 45 percent of attempted rapes occur on campuses — that means more than a third of all rape cases occur on college campuses.

The issue of sexual assaults on college campuses is an important problem that needs to be resolved. College is supposed to be a time when students figure out where they fit in in the world, further themselves individually and intellectually, and where they can comfortably and safely take part in amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. However, it’s not always easy to do that when you are constantly worrying about your safety and personal well-being.

In order to be able to fully enjoy the college experience, rape awareness education and prevention efforts need to be improved here at the university. One way to do this is through Mizzou’s “Green Dot” program. Although we have this program and it is advertised during Summer Welcome, I feel as though it would be more effective if it was advertised continually throughout they school year.

According to the MU Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention website (RSVP), “A green dot is any behavior‚ choice‚ word‚ or attitude that promotes safety for everyone and communicates utter intolerance for rape, sexual assault, relationship violence, child abuse and stalking. A green dot is simply your individual choice at any given moment to make our campus safer.”

There are many ways that we as students can help practice prevention efforts, spread the word about being safe on campus and help encourage others to do so as well. Being a green dot on campus is just one way that you could help prevent rapes and other sexual assaults on campus.

Another way to help prevent the reoccurrence of rapes would be to report and turn in any information you know pertaining to rapes. Gustafson reported that, “Fewer than 1 in 20, or less than 5 percent, completed and attempted rapes against college women are reported”.

No matter the circumstances, it is extremely important to report these crimes in order to protect another individual from being harmed by that same person.

An easy way to raise awareness of the issue of rapes on college campuses would be to organize skits and seminars specifically aimed at reminding people how important it is to protect yourself and avoid dangerous situations. Here at MU, these skits and seminars are held at Summer Welcome. I think it would be very useful to hold them again at the beginning of each semester.

MU also has what’s called “Rape Awareness Month” in September. According to the MU Division of Student Life webpage, “Rape Awareness Month brings people together to acknowledge and raise awareness about the issues of rape and sexual assault.” To help support the cause you can participate in events throughout the month of September.

Students can also get involved in STARS (Stronger Together Against Relationship and Sexual Violence), a student organization supported by the RSVP Center. According to the Division of Student Life webpage, “These students promote awareness of relationship and sexual violence through weekly meetings, various awareness months and events like STARS Speaks, Green Dot Mizzou Day, and Rock Against Rape.”

Being on a college campus, it isn’t uncommon for students to be out and about at night. However, this can be dangerous if you don’t take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from possible confrontations. Such precautions include walking only in well-lit areas, carrying pocket-sized mace with you and always walking in pairs or groups. If you ever feel unsafe, you can find one of the emergency phones located on campus as well as call an escort from the MUPD to walk you back to your residential hall or car.

Fox2now St. Louis posted a feature story on Sept. 18, 2014, about three rape reports at MU. The post reported that two students were taking further precautions including carrying a stun gun and a whistle with them as protection.

A last additional option would be to take part in the MUPD Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) program designed for women ages eleven and up. This program teaches women how to defend themselves in potentially harmful situations.

It is critical that we, as college students, make sure that we are prepared and educated about how to stay safe on campus. To help put a stop to sexual violence on campus, we need to use these precautions and strategies and make this campus a safer place.

Martha Steiner

About the Author Martha Steiner

I’m a small town farm girl from northwest Missouri who is passionate about God, singing, writing, chocolate and Mizzou football! I am the youngest of six kids and the last to attend the University of Missouri — and definitely the most passionate about being a tiger! I enjoy leading worship, camping, spending time with my friends and family, and reading. I’ve never traveled outside of the country, but I would love to travel all over the world someday. Although I grew up on a black Angus beef cattle farm, I’ve always preferred eating a hot dog to a hamburger!