EDITORIAL: Give survivors a say

SAGE representative Hannah Mollet stands in front of the CMU crest and reads the open letter to President George Ross demanding all rapists to be expelled.

There are rapists attending Central Michigan University. Because of the rate at which sexual assault goes unreported, it is statistically improbable that every assault that has occurred on this campus has led to the conviction of the perpetrator.

On Tuesday, members of Students Advocating Gender Equality held a public protest to encourage for CMU to expel every person found guilty of any degree of sexual assault, based on the Student Code of Conduct. Although Central Michigan Life believes protestors' hearts were in the right place, it is important to remember the voice that matters most in these situations: That of the survivor.

With the chillingly high prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses, this is an important conversation to have and work on to find a solution. CMU has resources for survivors and secondary survivors, such as Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates and the Counseling Center, that allow a survivor to be the driving force in whether or not they want to go forward with an investigation.

Letting the survivor's experience carry weight in deciding punishment for the offender helps to return control to them in a situation that has usually stripped them of their agency in an indescribably painful way. With an all or nothing punishment system, survivors may be hesitant to come forward because of feelings of guilt and fear of backlash.

In a Code of Conduct hearing, a survivor's testimony is heavily considered in deciding punishment for the perpetrator. Allowing a survivor the option of providing input on this decision gives them more power. Automatic expulsion could leave a survivor feeling powerless and silenced, along with the fear of becoming ostracized, since most perpetrators of sexual assault are not strangers to the victim.

Survivors need to be believed. They need to be listened to, and they need to regain a sense of control. 

Some survivors may want to see their rapist expelled. Some may cringe at the thought.

All we ask is that they are given the option.