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Bringing Awareness to Sexual Assault

By Alexander Francione; For the Clock
On April 27, 2017

Bringing Awareness to Sexual Assault 

Alexander Francione

For The Clock

arfrancione@plymouth.edu 

On April 19th, Congresswoman Ann Kuster joined the Plymouth State community to educate and discuss sexual assault. The forum included many members of Plymouth State’s community including Steven Temperino, Tina E., Janette Wiggett, Paige Schoppmann, Marissa Davis, Jeff Furlone, Laura Dykstra, and Robert Orf. The panel came together to discuss what students can do to help fight against sexual assaults in their community, as well as highlight the different resources on campus available to students who have been victims or know a victim of sexual assault.

Kuster, along with Patrick Meehan, Jackie Speier, and David Joyce, launched an organization called the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. According to Kuster’s website:

“[The Task Force] will bring together Republicans and Democrats to advance legislative proposals and initiatives to address sexual violence. Areas of the Task Force’s focus will include: K-12 education, college campus safety, the rape kit backlog, military sexual trauma, ending online harassment, improved data and collection, and law enforcement training.”

Aside from educating the public, the purpose of the task force is also to open the options for a broad conversation and hear from different perspectives. Having a conversation gets rid of taboos, assumptions, and makes the public more aware about what sexual assault really is.

The main takeaway from the forum was eliminating the societal stigmas about sexual assault. Kuster, a victim of sexual assault 30 years ago, didn’t come out and talk about her sexual assault until last year. “I never dared talk about it because you feel as though you did something wrong,” she said. “You shouldn’t have been in that place, you shouldn’t have been walking alone. Now to be able to be bringing up this silence and talking about it, we can change the environment.”

Stigma plays an important role in the identity of sexual assault survivors. Women often don’t know how to reach out to others when they’ve been affected, with things like victim shaming and their identity no longer being about the person, and being about what happened to them, coming out can often be humiliating. Although sexual assault mainly affects women, the panel wanted to make sure the audience knows that sexual assaults can happen to men too. According to Tina E., “With masculinity being jeopardized, it can be as equally excruciating to report an assault.” The fact that people may be embarrassed or humiliated to report a crime is a major problem that Kuster and Plymouth State are looking to fix.

According to the University Police Department’s daily crime log, Plymouth State had six reported cases of sexual assaults on campus in 2016. This is up from the past two years of no reported sexual assaults on campus. Although the spike may seem alarming at first, there is a silver lining with these numbers. An emphasis against stigma welcomes victims to come forward and report their crimes, so al though there are numbers being reported, the panel wants to emphasize that this allows justice to be served and crack down on assaults.

Sexual assaults can happen at any time of the day, and Plymouth State offers many resources to help victims. If you report a sexual assault to the police, they will set you up with Voices Against Violence, which offers a 24/7 hotline and supports victims or anyone affected by sexual assault. They walk you through the process of reporting a crime, receiving medical help, and coping with the trauma. The counseling center also offers free counseling sessions to anyone affected by sexual assault, as well as couples therapy to help talk about and deal with maintaining a healthy relationship with someone who has been assaulted. Both resources are free and confidential.

In the constantly evolving and fast paced society we live in, Plymouth State is adapting to the times. They are creating a campus that is safe, open, and always willing to hear student’s concerns. When it comes to sexual assault, Plymouth has no tolerance when it comes to sexual assault, and is misconduct happens, the school wants no relationship with offenders. It follows due-process and takes allegations seriously, and if it is more likely than not that misconduct went down, the student will be suspended or expelled. Dean of Students, Jeff Furlone, makes it clear that “it’s a supportive campus, it’s a supportive process, and if you make the decision to come forward and report, we’re here for you”. 

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