EDITORIAL: In order to combat sexual assault we need to address it


Sexual assault is an issue on university campuses across the nation. It's an issue here on our campus, too. 

A student at Central Michigan University reported a sexual assault on Thursday, Oct. 4. At about 4 p.m. on Oct. 5, CMU sent out an email to all students, faculty and staff notifying them the incident had occurred on campus. The email stated a man approached a student, asked about a music festival and then assaulted her. 

On Tuesday, CMU announced it was permanently removing the fraternity Phi Sigma Phi from campus. "The decision reflects multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, hazing, dangerous behaviors and this spring’s death of one of its members following a fraternity social event," an email to students stated. 

This week, we have published several stories about sexual assault – defining what the "Red Zone" is, telling the story of a survivor and the challenges she encountered with the Isabella County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and educating students about the resources available at CMU if this happens to them.

Rape culture – when society normalizes sexualized violence, typically excusing male sexual aggression and tolerating violence against women – is especially prevalent on college campuses. 

Colleges and universities sometimes try to conceal the issue and pretend it isn't a problem on their campus. Though the numbers in the university's Clery Act report show a safe campus, we all understand that those numbers only tell part of the story: according to the 2018 Annual Fire and Safety Report, there were a total of 14 rape incidents on and off campus in 2017, with a student body of 18,000. 

If that number is truly accurate, that means less than two assaults a month occurred that year at CMU. 

That's hard to believe. 

Nationally, the statistics on sexual assault are alarming:

• One in every six American women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

• One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

• Although thousands of people are victims of sexual assault every year, more than 90 percent of them do not report the assault. 

• More than 50 percent of those assaults occur in August, September, October and November. This time period shortly after the semester begins is known as "the red zone." At a time when many young adults are living on their own for the first time and being exposed to parties and alcohol, they are at extreme risk of being sexually assaulted.

This is reality. We often react to reports about sexual assaults as if they are isolated incidents. That's simply not the case. 

Universities need to be transparent. All students should know where to find the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity. Students should know where the Title IX office is — Bovee University Center Room 306 — who our coordinator is and how to make a report of sexual assault. We need CMU to better promote where a survivor goes to file a complaint if they are sexually assaulted. 

We need to raise awareness and educate ourselves about the reality of rape on college campuses. This week's timely updates about sexual assaults on campus at CMU were appreciated by us and the rest of the student body. We hope to see this philosophy about sharing information continue. 

If you need to talk to someone, contact Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates at (989) 774-2255.

If you need to report a sexual assault, contact the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity at (989) 774-3253.

We believe you.

We want you to know that you are not alone. 

We know the university supports you, too.

We support sexual assault survivors.