July 22, 2018 | ° F

Take iSPEAK survey to combat assault

Responsibility to fight against sexual violence is collective

Colleges around the country are ramping up efforts to combat sexual assault, and Rutgers is at the forefront. The White House called on Rutgers to pilot a campus sexual assault climate survey, and that survey is open from now until Nov. 9 for students to take. The link for the online iSPEAK survey was emailed to all students early this week and takes about 10 minutes to complete. It’s completely confidential and includes comprehensive survey questions about everything related to sexual violence on campus, from your opinion on how the University manages the issue and how accessible its services are to more detailed questions about personal experiences with sexual assault. 

The survey is just one part of a larger project to completely reform the way colleges handle sexual assault because right now, most of them are failing. Nearly 80 colleges are currently under investigation for mishandling cases of sexual assault. The four-pronged approach by the White House aims to provide schools with the resources to conduct the survey, recommend prevention strategies based on the results, help schools respond to incidents of sexual assault and make the federal government’s enforcement efforts more transparent. Strong student participation in this survey is essential for the University to accurately gauge the issue and determine what areas need to be worked on and how they should be addressed.

Just as important as cracking down, though, is the issue of education on the issue. Most don’t ever think that sexual violence is anything to worry about beyond the obvious precautions to avoid becoming a victim. But sexual assault isn’t a crime committed by a random stranger — statistics show that up to 75 percent of victims know their perpetrator. It could be an acquaintance, a friend or even a trusted partner. The definition of sexual assault is very broad, but not everyone is even aware of what it includes. The Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance does a lot on this front, offering programs and education materials to anyone who needs it. 

More than just on an administrative level, we need to take responsibility for our own education and peer education on a more individual level. Leadership on campus, whether it is in the classroom, student club or organization, should include taking the initiative to promote education on the issue. Finding creative ways to teach students about what sexual assault is and how to address it is important — for example, every student who comes to the Rutgers New Student Orientation the summer before his or her first year goes to a SCREAM theater performance, in which actors depict very real scenes of sexual violence and how they are often handled. It’s an intense and uncomfortable performance, but it’s often a rude awakening for incoming students who don’t usually realize how real the issue is or how it can impact anyone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five women and one in 33 men is sexually assaulted at some point in his or her lifetime, and one in five women is sexually assaulted at college. Most of us know someone who was a victim of sexual violence, whether we’re aware of it or not. This survey isn’t just about creating a more comfortable environment at Rutgers. It’s an obligation that every single one of us has, regardless of how strongly we feel about the issue, and regardless of whether we think it applies to us. If you need even more of an incentive, the sooner you do the survey, the more likely you are to win a cash prize that you will automatically be entered to win. Do your part and join the fight against sexual violence. Take the survey online as soon as you can — it’s the least any of us can do, and it can go a long way.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Health Outreach, Promotion and Education program offers programs and education materials related to sexual assault. 

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