Letter to the editor: The fight against sexual misconduct from two seniors’ points of view

Katie Sidlowski and Maggie Carlson

Let’s get one thing straight: sexual assault is an epidemic on college campuses. Bucknell is no exception.

Last week’s article, “Combating bias is necessary in fight against sexual misconduct,” failed to recognize the lived experience of sexual assault by students on campus. While this aforementioned article may have a place in a broader discourse surrounding sexual assault, it does not have a place on this campus.

As senior women, we are intimately familiar with the University’s unique social climate and the culture of sexual assault that it perpetuates. Having spent three years learning to navigate these social and academic spaces, we have come to understand the challenges that face both the women and men who decide to report their assaults, not to mention the psychological toll it takes on the survivor and those close to them.

Reporting assault is not something anyone takes lightly. Consider the implications of reporting an assault on a small campus with as tight-knit of a community as Bucknell’s. It is a virtually impossible decision to make. Now consider the bureaucracy and “red tape” survivors must cut through in order to see any action taken regarding this assault. Taking all of this into account, who would report an assault, let alone make a false report of an assault?

The idea that survivors of sexual assault fail to recognize the impact that an assault accusation has on their assailants is absurd, particularly on our campus, where you are likely to run into your assailant and his or her friends in class, the library, or while simply walking across the quad. The significant lack of false reporting in cases of sexual assault clearly shows that survivors understand the gravity of their claims.

Last week’s article states that “as an unintended result of giving the survivors of sexual assault a voice, I think we have also given the means for people to ruin the lives of significant others, co-workers, bosses— anyone whom they dislike or hate in some way.” This is an assertion that we resent. Many survivors are still voiceless and have to combat daily those who would like to keep them that way.

By situating this narrative in the workplace with the reference to “coworkers” and “bosses,” the writer reinforces certain tropes that are harmful to the modern woman. The use of these terms is inherently gendered and puts men in positions of power, reinforcing the age-old trope that women are better suited serving under men. An additional implication of this statement is that women are malicious, self-interested creatures, willing to pin sexual assault on their male bosses for their own gain. This is the stereotype we as women are actively combating, not one we as a society should perpetuate. In doing so, we undermine the very real voices of survivors of workplace assault and harassment.

In a heterosexual context, the power dynamics between men and women, with men typically falling into the role of assailant and women as their victims, reinforce stereotypes of men as powerful and dominant and their female counterparts as subservient and demure. Society at large buys into this power dynamic, which is perhaps why the writer represents false reporting (as rare as it is) as she does. In this context, perhaps the best way to help men out of this position is to confront the toxic dynamics of hyper-masculinity. This would ideally come through healthy, pro-consent programs (like Speak UP) and counseling services targeting men as they move through the mental effects of the judicial process of a sexual assault accusation, whether guilty or not. Helping men confront a culture that encourages violence, aggression, and control by refocusing on one of respect and empathy would not only better the lives of men, but the lives of women as well, working towards a safer and more inclusive campus community.

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