By Jill Pilgrim, Esq., Rita Smith, and Stephen Bock, Esq.
Part I
The obvious answer to the question posed in the title of this article is: We are all responsible for sexual violence on college campuses in the United States. The “we” is society at large. Many of you are protesting already, but let’s look at the facts and have an open-minded dialogue about this very sensitive topic.
As citizens and residents of this great United States, voters, lobbyists, social activists, intellectuals, and politicians decide, through social pressure or direct action, the prevailing social and political priorities. Whether the issues are women’s suffrage, race equality, high crime rates, universal free education, workers’ safety, the eradication of HIV/AIDS, child labor laws, or gay marriage, the tipping point towards individual, collective, and/or governmental action follows a period of sustained dialogue, media attention, and intense debate. So where is the sustained outcry from the voters, lobbyists, social activists, intellectuals, and politicians against the pervasive societal violence against women, particularly sexual assault? The inability to adequately answer this question results in the obvious conclusion that “we” as a conscious and caring nation are failing women, especially female student victims of sexual violence.
Nationally, the reported rate of female sexual assault is approximately 12%. Available research reports that 20-25 percent of college women and 4 percent of college men were sexually assaulted during their collegiate educational experience. With such a high ratio of sexual assaults occurring in the context of higher education in the U.S., a full court press approach is warranted to solving this serious problem. That means the “we” in society — the voters, lobbyists, social activists, intellectuals, and politicians — must get involved.
Some among us have been doing our part, resulting in federal laws such as the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (“Clery Act”), Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (“VAWA”), the First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault issues in April 2014, and the National Football League’s series of initiatives and media segments highlighting the difficult discussion points around violence against women generally. While these laws and initiatives suggest a high level of awareness in society about this troubling issue, these responses have often been reactionary — in response to a specific, well-publicized incident of sexual violence — rather than proactively seeking to prevent or reduce incidents of sexual assault. Moreover, many of these reactionary responses seek merely to comply with federal and other laws as a means of demonstrating positive action, as opposed to digging deep and implementing meaningful programs and best practices that address sexual violence. Perhaps we have not reached that proverbial “tipping point” at which society at-large is motivated “en masse” to act against such an injustice as sexual violence (or violence) against women.

 

Part II to follow shortly, stay tuned . . .

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