There have definitely been worse times in history to be a woman than right now. It’s cool that, in 2019, we can vote, own property, wear skirts above our knees and bras without wires in them.
But it’s still incredibly frustrating to be a woman today.
So far this school year, six sexual assaults have already been reported to Miami and Oxford police. I don’t mean to imply with this column that only females can be sexually assaulted (that’s absolutely not the case), but all six of these reports were from women, about men.
While the Miami community is more open about sexual assault and harassment than it was my first year, I still don’t think we’re doing enough of something very simple: instead of instructing women how to avoid being attacked, telling men to just … not attack them.
In each email notification of a report, four crime-reduction tips are listed. None of them are “Don’t sexually assault people,” which seems like the simplest way to reduce these types of crimes.
Miami’s Dean of Students, Kimberly Moore, sent an email to Miami students Sept. 5 in response to the slew of reported assaults.
“When hearing about these types of incidents, we can feel helpless,” Moore said in the message. “While that is a normal response, that is not the case; we each have a role to play in bettering our community and eliminating these incidents.”
Moore listed resources that sexual assault victims can utilize and encouraged students to get involved with Miami’s assault prevention efforts. I agree with Moore’s words, and I’m grateful for the quick response from Miami administration, but again, there’s one crucial message missing: “Hey guys, don’t sexually assault people.”
In every anti-assault campaign Miami launches and every sexual assault report email we receive, it’s implied that you should not sexually assault people. Why isn’t it explicitly stated?
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” writer and star Rachel Bloom, who has never been shy about addressing issues like mental health and sexual assault, recently discussed misconceptions about rape culture in a video for Refinery29 and made some important points.
“Rape and sexual assault are not just committed by monsters,” Bloom says in the video. “For years, we did think that … [But] it’s not just insane men who commit sex crimes, it’s all sorts of people.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 80 percent of sexual assault victims know the perpetrator. As Bloom said, they’re not just “insane” strangers; they’re students here. So why does Miami assume everyone is getting the implied message in each list of “crime-reduction tips”?
It’s unfair to ask women to always walk with groups, dress conservatively, carry mace or, in other words, try to not get sexually assaulted. We have to start telling men not to sexually assault them.
Bloom pointed out that, “accusers are often stigmatized more than the people [they’re] accusing. People try to discredit them; they say they’re lying to get attention or money, and they have to re-live their trauma by telling their story over and over and over again.”
The most public example of this is Chanel Miller, who came forward last week as the young woman Brock Turner sexually assaulted at Stanford University in 2015. Turner served merely three months of a six-month sentence after being convicted, and Miller’s victim impact statement went viral.
“You should have never done this to me,” Miller read in court in 2016, addressing Turner. “Secondly, you should have never made me fight so long to tell you, you should never have done this to me. But here we are. The damage is done, no one can undo it.”
Instead of telling young men they shouldn’t have sexually assaulted someone after the fact, as Miller bravely did in court in 2016, we need to be proactive.
Young women are already, always, trying to defend themselves. They don’t need to be told to be more vigilant in avoiding potential assault. But men still need to be told to not assault them.
Miami’s sexual assault resource guide can be accessed here. Along with information on the reporting process, the site offers advice on what to do if you or someone you know is sexually assaulted.
Sexual assault survivors who wish to report an incident can contact campus security enforcement, including the Miami University Police Department at 513-519-2222, the Oxford Police Department at 513-523-4321, the Coordinator of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program at 513-529-1870 and any athletic coaches, academic or student organization advisor.
If students wish to speak to a non-mandatory reporter for confidential support, they can call or text Miami’s campus-based support specialists from WomenHelpingWomen at 513-431-1111.
WomenHelpingWomen is available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day and is also reachable through email at MU@womenhelpingwomen.org.
More information and resources can be accessed at womenshealth.gov.