UPUA, Show Us That You Won’t Forget About Sexual Violence
One in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape since the age of 14. Yes, one in four. Think about how often you see a group of four or more girls laying out in East Quad, eating together at the HUB, or waiting in line at Indigo. Next time you do, keep in mind it’s likely that at least one of them has been a victim of a disgustingly common act that generally isn’t discussed among college students.
As a man raised to treat women with respect — and even a certain level of chivalry — my stomach turns every time I hear or read of a sexual assault. A few of my friends have survived sexual violence, and I’m sure there are others I’m not aware of. I am an older brother, a boyfriend, and a friend to some absolutely amazing women, and I protect them more than myself. I encourage all of the guys out there to do the same for the women in your life.
However, preventing sexual violence goes beyond making sure that she doesn’t drink too much or that she gets home safely. The best way to prevent sexual violence exists in the message and what we do to push it to the forefront of student conversation.
Yesterday, I spoke with Jasmin Enriquez, the President of Only With Consent, an up-and-coming student group designed to raise awareness of sexual violence on campus. As a survivor of sexual violence during her freshman year at Penn State, Jasmin, now a junior, hopes to lead the effort in making sure that the issue of sexual violence receives the attention that it deserves.
The idea for the initative began this past September and is constantly developing under the leadership of Enriquez, Grace Emmerling, Only With Consent head of communications Jennifer Studer and treasurer and secretary Amy Mastrine, and UPUA Chairwoman of Student Life & Diversity Katie Quinn. Tonight, UPUA will vote on a resolution to approve the usage of (at the most recent revision of the legislation I have seen) over $7,000 to promoting Sexual Violence Awareness Week, which will be held from April 17-20. In the legislation, the bulk of the money — over $6,000 worth — is used to purchase 1,500 t-shirts that say “Only Do It With Consent,” and the rest of the money is allocated to purchase other promotional items such as banners, flyers, balloons, and sky lanterns.
Enriquez told me she hopes this campaign will get people talking about sexual violence against both men and women rather than ignoring the issue entirely, which she feels occurs far too often.
“With sexual violence, you can’t donate money to find a cure,” Enriquez said. “It’s about people in the community talking about it and teaching them how prevalent it is in our community.”
She also warns students not to “fall into the idea that [rape] only happens when you’re walking home at night,” noting that 90% of sexual assaults occur from someone the victim knows as opposed to a random attack. A campaign like Sexual Violence Awareness Week can help prevent these types of misconceptions.
On Monday, Only With Consent began circulating a petition — both online and in hard copy — to help garner support the legislation. By late Tuesday, over 300 students had signed it, and I encourage you to do so by clicking here.
On a bitter cold night this past November, thousands of Penn State students stood somberly on Old Main lawn holding candles to support victims of sexual violence. The words of Penn State football legend LaVar Arrington stuck with me most as he spoke of the Sandusky scandal serving as a “call to duty.” He reminded us that the worst thing we could do at that moment is forget about what happened to those — and any — victims of sexual violence and abuse.
Your move, UPUA. Show us that you didn’t forget.
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