Editorial: Sexual assault is a human issue, not a numbers one

Sexual assault is an issue that plagues all levels of humanity, from the individual to the college campus to the national stage and beyond. It has also been highlighted recently in the media with the removal of high-profile Fox News employees Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes, among others, due to allegations of workplace sexual harassment. The existence of sexual assault, especially on college campuses, is one that cannot be denied, and to do so would be a willful ignorance of the facts. The prevalence of the University’s drinking culture and Greek life has contributed to higher-than-average numbers in the past, a statistic and correlation certainly worth considering.

The facts, for the record, are heavily disputed. Every year, the University conducts its own research on sexual misconduct, which includes sexual assault. Other teams and professors conduct their own independent research too, though their definitions of what is considered sexual assault or misconduct differ. The divergent definitions of sexual assault create a discrepancy of facts, and pulls attention from the actual human issue at hand.

Would you like to try telling a college student that what they have experienced does not technically qualify as sexual assault, but rather “sexual misconduct”?

The University offers resources such as SpeakUP Bucknell, the Women’s Resource Center, ally programs partnered with Greek organizations and Bucknell Student Government, and various panels dedicated to assessing and addressing the realities of sexual assault on campus. The narrative surrounding sexual assault, however, should not center on the technicalities and definitions.

During the April 21-23 Admitted Student Open House, pamphlets were circulated that addressed problems that are not unique to the University’s campus, but that do negatively impact students’ experiences. The pamphlets were titled “We Do.n’t: Bucknell University Dis-Orientation Guide,” and highlighted issues such as race relations, wealth disparity, and sexual assault, to name a few. The pamphlets were anonymously published, and the purpose was to educate prospective students on the environment they will be entering if they choose to attend the University.

The pamphlet’s introductory statement concluded by expressing the sentiment that it is important to “serve as active members of our community with the goal of making it better.” This is a sentiment that reflects the dueling commitment to and room to grow for the current student body in addressing issues such as sexual assault. Ensuring that the University is championing the mitigation of sexual assault is an endeavor that extends far beyond the discussion over definitions and terminology, and should encompass the humanizing aspects of such a prevalent issue.

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