Due to new legislation and changes to old understandings, one local politician has taken it upon herself to help educate Missouri college campuses regarding sexual violence.
As part of her “Claire on Campus’ tour, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill visited Missouri Western to speak to administrators, faculty members and students about sexual assault. She made her visit on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 4:15 p.m.
“Whenever Washington passes a law, we have a bad habit that we don’t check in with the people who are going to utilize the law,” she said. “We don’t check in to make sure that what we’re doing is practical, it’s responsible, that it will actually accomplish the goals we want to accomplish. So, what I’ve been doing is traveling around the state…. to make sure I’m getting input from students, from administrators, from law enforcement, about this very thorny and difficult problem of sexual assault on college campuses.”
McCaskill spoke about the importance of educating students about sexual assault and advocating for the victims of those crimes. She said there was one fact in particular that she founds alarming.
“If you go to college in America, you are more likely to be sexually assaulted than if you don’t,” she said. “There’s a lot of complicated reasons why that’s a fact, and that’s why we need Title IX to be workable and robust, and that’s why we need to talk about the intersect between Title IX and the law enforcement system.”
Daniel Hager, president of the Student Government Association, said it is important that the culture of being embarrassed or reluctant to report sexual assault changes. One SGA recent initiative is the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign. According to their website, the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign encourages students to take a pledge as ‘a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault.’
“One of the things we have been speaking on with the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign is that we want to be advocates of not just being a bystander – of getting actively involved,” Hager said.
He said that he and McCaskill discussed that some students view only extreme situations as sexual assault, like “a stranger jumping out of the bushes with a knife.”
“That’s not it, at all,” Hager said. “The reason we are pushing so much on the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign is not because we want everyone to change their profile pictures to make us look better, but it’s because they need to read this information and be educated on what they can do.”
Vice President of SGA Tyler O’Neill said that campus leaders need to step up and educate themselves and peers about sexual violence.
“It needs to start with the [student] leaders and they need to disperse [the information] to the students,” O’Neill said. “As a student, you can inform yourself about it, but not every student is going to do that. To get the word out there, to get people understanding, it’s got to be a student leader thing.”
O’Neill said some examples of ways to inform students would be having the resident assistants educate their residents on sexual assault awareness and having the University 101 class include more information about sexual violence.
Student Governor Lionel Attawia agreed that student leaders need to be educated and help lead the fight against sexual violence on Western’s campus.
“I feel that the next step is to get student leaders, that’s myself, Daniel, senators, and maybe presidents of organizations also, and your RAs of course, to have a complete understanding of what all of this information means,” Attawia said. “From there on, just make the communication clear with students by setting up programs, setting up seminars – required by classes.”