The following editorial appeared in The Volante, Vermillion, S.D., on Nov. 10, 2015:
Every year, thousands of young adults enter universities across the country to begin their higher education.
Each year during orientation, they are given a very alarming look at the reality of the culture on college campuses. It is a statistic almost all university students can quote.
One in five women will be sexually assaulted during their time in college. One in sixteen men will also suffer the same fate.
We hear this statistic so often that we have become desensitized to just how alarming that is. In case it needs to be clarified, it is alarming and it is unacceptable.
It is our responsibility as students to ensure that this does not happen on our campus. We must create an environment where sexual assault is a thing of the past.
Partying is just a natural part of life in college, but it does not need to be coupled with unsafe environments where people are violated. If you see something going on that you feel is inappropriate, speak up and say something.
Under-reporting is the number one problem when it comes to sexual assault prevention.
If you witness something that you feel could constitute sexual assault in any way, it is your moral duty and obligation to report it. If you do not, you are part of the problem.
To those who have been the victim of such assault, please understand that reporting the crime can be the first step to ensure that others do not suffer the same trauma.
Studies have shown that rape victims are very reluctant to submit official police reports for a variety of reasons such as fear of reprisal or feelings of guilt.
Victims, please realize that it is not your fault and that you have a right to have the authorities seek out those that caused you harm.
The campus community will rally behind you and support you. There are resources available to help you.
Another underlying issue behind the rampant epidemic of sexual assault is the cultural stereotypes that are pushed on men and women in our society.
College campuses seem to be the perfect petri dish to allow these stereotypes to fester into a monster.
Men are almost universally praised for having countless sexual conquests and encouraged to be overly aggressive and rambunctious, especially when alcohol is involved. Men are also encouraged to be overly crass and profane when talking about women.
Women are told that if they dress up a certain way, they should expect to be touched and groped during a night out on the town.
These falsehoods permeate our culture, but common sense would tell you they are absolutely unfounded.
Men don’t have to act like savage creatures, and women don’t have to be defenseless. Women can wear whatever they like without the threat of inappropriate behavior from others.
Furthermore, college culture encourages men and women to engage in sexual activity as often as possible and not doing so is considered abnormal and even weird in some cases. People are culturally forced into situations that they are not ready for, and that creates a problematic environment.
We call on every student to respect a person’s right to choose.
They have a right to say no to unwanted behavior and unwanted contact directed at them.
They have a right to be respected as a human being and not be objectified.
It is the right and duty of every student and every citizen to report any inappropriate behavior or conduct they witness.
Help change the culture. You have a choice. Be a part of the solution to sexual assault, not part of the problem.