Editorial: ‘Locker room banter,’ Bill Cosby, and Brock Turner

As the first week of October concluded, Donald Trump’s comments on engaging in sexually predatory behavior surfaced. As the fallout from this somewhat unsurprising debacle ensued, it became abundantly clear that while discussing the topic of sexual assault may help with visibility of the issue, it also can serve to normalize the occurrence of sexual assault.

Political pundits and talking heads alike who supported Trump or the GOP were seen explaining away Trump’s hot mic comments as “locker room banter,” which was largely and sharply criticized by American athletes and citizens alike as being an intolerable justification of sexually aggressive comments that serve to perpetuate rape culture and the objectification of women. And these comments come at the end of a year where names like Brock Turner and Bill Cosby have become notorious for their connections to sexual assault of women.

On a national scale, sexual assault has come to the forefront of every news cycle on any given day. How does the average college campus, and specifically, the University’s campus, grapple with the topic of sexual assault?

As evidenced by an email received earlier this semester informing the campus community of several assaults at an on-campus fraternity house, sexual assault is an issue. SpeakUp has been a highly visible group on campus that seeks to educate the community on issues pertaining to rape culture, hookup culture, and appropriate behavior towards other students.

The mandatory SpeakUp sessions for all first-years do serve to implement baseline knowledge on sexual assault and being a positive bystander; the multiple events held over the course of the month of October such as “The Clothesline Project” and “Take Back the Night” help to reinforce this education for all members of the community beyond their initial introduction to this subject matter.

Efforts have also been made by the Greek community to engage with sexual assault awareness. On Oct. 17, several Greek organizations sponsored two speakers to share their personal experiences with sexual assault, which drew impressive turnout and garnered plenty of student engagement with the topic. The Sorority and Fraternity Ally Training program also seeks to institute change from within the Greek community by educating Greek women and men on red flag behaviors and inappropriate comments and actions.

Perhaps the most useful part of having many events dedicated to sexual assault is that it brings the topic to the forefront of conversation, thus normalizing discussion. Removing the social stigma and taboos from sexual assault goes a long way to opening the floor to conversation for survivors to come forward and begin the process of moving forward from sexual assault-related traumas.

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