Staff Editorial

University, Students Must More Actively Raise Awareness of Sexual Assault Resources

Photo courtesy of Dominique Ochoa | Loyola University ChicagoWellness professionals advise Loyola students at the Wellness Fair at Loyola’s Lakeshore Campus.

Students often hear warnings of the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses.  About 11 percent of all students — graduate and undergraduate — experience rape or sexual assault through violence, physical force or incapacitation, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

The experience of gender-based misconduct is all too familiar to Loyola students. Loyola’s student reports of gender-based misconduct have increased over recent years, more than doubling from the 2015-16 school year to the 2016-17 school year, as The PHOENIX reported. But how many students know how to report these incidents, or where to go for support in the event of such violence? It’s Loyola’s responsibility to ensure its community is well prepared for handling these incidents.

Of 213 reports in the 2016-17 academic year, 74 were reportedly perpetrated by Loyola students, according to Jessica Landis, deputy coordinator for Title IX, the office which handles issues of gender discrimination. That amounts to about 35 percent of allegations being reported against students.

Incidents reported to Loyola don’t necessarily occur during a student’s time at the school — reports can consist of any type of experience a student has had of sexual misconduct, at any location.

While this increase in reporting can be seen as positive, with more people utilizing resources and coming forward, it begs the question of how many students out there have had similar experiences but don’t know what resources are available to them.

A gender-based violence climate survey was administered earlier this year with questions gauging the awareness level of resources for students, but as the results have yet to be shared with the student body this semester as expected, it’s difficult to determine how much or how little students know about their options.

Loyola does its part to educate students about how to be “active bystanders” — someone who takes actions to help others and step in when there is a dangerous situation involving sexual misconduct or substance abuse. The members of The Phoenix editorial board all saw skits about the importance of consent and heard safety tips from Campus Safety as required at our new student orientations when we first came to Loyola. We were told to save Campus Safety’s number in our phones and were required to participate in an active bystander training workshop. Yet, the importance of Title IX isn’t one of the clear lessons we strongly recall from our own experiences at orientation.

Today’s new students participate in discussions of Title IX’s and the Wellness Center’s resources at Loyola during their orientations. Still, while Loyola’s Title IX office is the go-to for gender-based misconduct, and Loyola makes initial efforts of education on the topic, why does it seem the phrase “Title IX” isn’t typically remembered by students unless they’ve personally interacted with the department? Students hear the phrase “rape culture” time and time again, but the resources available when the consequences of rape culture are realized in the form of gender-based violence seem to be talked about less directly after a student’s first year at Loyola.

This could be a consequence of unaffected students disregarding what might seem like an issue that doesn’t concern them. But there has also been little required of us since our first years at campus to ensure we are aware of resources to use if we or people we know are ever victims of a gender-based crime.

Ensuring students are being taught the correct way to handle situations, and the support that’s offered to them when things go wrong, is an ongoing process that can’t be fulfilled by workshops in the first few weeks of a student’s time at college, easily forgotten amongst other welcome week activities.

The Title IX website has links to educational videos about its resources and how to help prevent crimes of this nature. One such video is called “Be an Active Bystander” and links to a YouTube video made in 2013. But in the four years since its creation, this video has accumulated less than 800 total views.

Part of this lack of awareness could be a weakness in education and promotion on Loyola’s part. While the school provides workshops and programs centered on educating students on Title IX related issues throughout the year, these programs are optional and often overlooked by students.

It might be more effective for Loyola to require more events be attended by students throughout the course of their college education. Understanding of consent and resources doesn’t get any less relevant as a student gets older, so it should be reinforced any chance possible: Through intro-level courses, start of semester emails, floor meetings with resident advisers and informative sessions with commuter and resimuter students.

While a lack of promotion or accountability is a major player in students’ ignorance of such resources, Loyola can’t be entirely blamed. Students must also take advantage of the educational programs offered to them by the school so they are prepared for possible situations where they or a friend are in need. Students owe it to their fellow classmates who have been victimized to work to end the rape culture that persists on college campuses, and they can do that by taking to heart and building upon the lessons first relayed to them at beginning orientations.

The first tenet of Loyola’s student is to “care for self.” Students should explore their resources and be prepared so they know how to best care for themselves or others if something goes wrong. The university, meanwhile, should further encourage students to become educated to care for themselves and for their fellow Loyola community members, even if it means making that education mandatory.

Students who have questions or concerns with gender-based misconduct can contact the Title IX office by emailing deputy coordinator Landis at jlandis@luc.edu, or associate dean Tim Love if a student prefers a male-identifying resource at tlove@luc.edu. Students can approach the Wellness Center for resources using its Sexual Assault Advocacy Line at 773-494-3810. To further educate themselves on these issues, students can also download the Wellness Center’s Student Health 101 app on iTunes and Google Play.

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