Democracy Square Live creates discussion about sexual assault on college campuses

The event began with one question, “How many of you have experienced or know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault?”

Out of the 13 people present in the room, 10 people raise their hands.

The event, hosted by Democracy Square Live, set out to discuss the issue of sexual assault on college campuses and what can be done to prevent the assault.

Statistics show that one in every five women and one in every 16 men, are sexually assaulted while attending college. And more than 90 percent of the victims do not report the crime.

Ann James, assistant dean of students and Title XI coordinator, says the statistics are scary to think about. She then asked students why the issue of sexual assault has really been a big issue in the news recently.

“There’s probably been more cases of sexual violence with our generation,” Ana Solorio, a freshman middle grades education major, said. “It’s always been there, but now it’s increasing. It’s probably increasing because it was never really talked about in the past.”

James believes that there has been an increase in awareness of sexual assault because of government officials who are very vocal about the issues.

“I think one reason, in my opinion, is that there’s a lot of government officials who are very vocal about it,” James said. “So there has been some recent laws passed and revised to mandate how universities have to handle it. So I think that has a caused a lot of talk about it in the media.”

While the issue of sexual assault seems to be more common in media coverage, junior Michelle Anderkin, a psychology and criminal justice major, believes that sometimes some media outlets still doesn’t take the issue seriously.

“The whole Bill Cosby issue, everybody just treats that as a joke now,” Anderkin said. “Nobody sees it as an issue. Nobody sees the victim as a victim, it’s just ‘Oh, they’re getting their fifteen minutes of fame’ and everyone knows Bill Cosby, everyone loves Bill Cosby. So it just kind of gets brushed off, when it needs to be a big deal.”

James believes that it can be issues like this, that make people afraid to report their sexual assault.

“That could be one of the reasons victims don’t come forward because people don’t believe them or people make a joke at it or people turn it around and blame the victim for coming forward,” James said. “Especially if it’s someone like Bill Cosby or a famous person that everyone kind of trusts or knows, or think that they trust and know. It’s hard to be the person to come out against someone like that. Even if it’s just another student it might still be really hard because if you don’t think anyone is going to believe you because they know this person, it’s hard to be the person to bring it up.”

According to James, the problem of sexual assault isn’t getting worse on campus, but the new resources on campus are allowing students to reach out or seek help if they have an issue with sexual assault.

“I don’t think it’s a growing problem,” James said. “It’s always been here, it’s always been everywhere but nobody talked about it. If any college campus tells you that it’s not a problem, that is inaccurate. We are addressing it and I think we know more about it because we now have the resources. Ten years ago, there was nowhere for people to go to address the issue.”

For any student who has experienced sexual assault or may just want to know more about the subject, the Norse Violence Prevention Center is available for any student to visit. James believes that the center has really helped educate students and bring light to the issue of sexual assault on campus.

With April being sexual assault awareness month, more events will be held to educate others about the issue, including a showing of the new documentary called “The Hunting Ground”, which is a new, highly anticipated documentary about how universities handle sexual assault.  

“We are going to show the movie, and then we are going to have a conversation after the movie is over about what students thought, and there will also be people from the university to answer questions about our process,” James said. “I think it’s going to be a really neat event.”

The showing, will take place on April 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the Otto M. Budig Theater.

“I don’t know what kind of conversation is going to happen, but I think it will be good conversation,” James said.

For more information about sexual assault, please contact the Norse Violence Prevention Center or visit their website