“The status quo is completely unacceptable,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) remarked at a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing last July, in response to the way higher education institutions address sexual assault on their campuses.
Her message, as well as that from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), is that institutions should look to more effective strategies in raising awareness of sexual assault, available services and rights of students and survivors.
Along with the recognition of Ripon College’s great efforts to educate students and comply with Title IX regulations, students agree with the senators that more can be done to raise awareness of this issue.
There is a bipartisan effort in the HELP committee to protect regulations concerning sexual violence education and institutional protocols in the 2015 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. These regulations fall under Title IX, the Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act. Which many students may recall as speakers brought to campus, online training assigned and events hosted by groups to raise awareness.
The annual “Take Back the Night” event this past month, sponsored by Panhellenic Council, brought Karen Bednarek, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has authored three books of poetry and illustrations depicting the harsh reality of her experiences.
A short clip and anonymous testimonies from fellow students who experienced domestic and sexual violence followed. The event wrapped up with students marching through campus and adamantly chanting against sexual assault.
Shalynn Kruegger, president of the Panhellenic Council, says the main reason for the event is to spread awareness and to establish community support.
“Coming in as a first-year or transfer student, it’s really hard. You don’t know what the community stands for,” says Kruegger. “I think it’s something that the community as a whole stands behind: domestic violence awareness, sexual assault awareness. [Take Back the Night] is a good way to get the community together.”
Take Back the Night was emotional and made an impact, as all of Greek Life and many independents became a part of the experience. But on other fronts of raising awareness, Ripon falls short on impact and participation.
An anonymous first-year student described a multitude of speakers during Orientation week, but when I asked if they could recall a speaker on Title IX, sexual assault awareness or survivor services, they replied, “I don’t know. Maybe we did, I don’t remember.”
a handful of upperclassmen, when asked, about the voluntary Title IX module and quiz that was sent around via email, a majority of them either didn’t remember or remarked they thought it “wasn’t mandatory” and thus didn’t complete it.
An anonymous student explained, “I did about 30 percent because I already knew all of it and why would I waste two hours of my life on something I already know. And if I’m not going to be penalized I’m not going to do it.”