Column: Increasing sexual assault awareness isn’t enough

Stephanie Markham, News Editor

Nearly two years ago, when the apparent insensitivity of Eastern’s administrators to sexual assault reports incited outrage across campus, this touchy subject became the object of contention for the community.

The Daily Eastern News reported back in January 2013 that Vice President for Student Affairs Dan Nadler ordered facilities planning and management to power wash the Doudna steps even though a student had chalked a message on the steps questioning the university’s response to her reported rape.

Regardless of who was angered by the incident and its aftermath, and for whatever reasons, the fact that people were getting pissed was a good thing, and it started a chain reaction of responses that continue to this day.

This conflict sparked town hall meetings, a teal ribbon linked to information on the Eastern website and even the formation of a Sexual Assault Taskforce.

This Wednesday, the founder of the Promoting Awareness | Victim Empowerment organization, Angela Rose, gave a speech about her experience with sexual assault.

Rose also debunked common myths about sexual assault, shared tips for helping survivors and encouraged the audience to start a PAVE chapter at Eastern.

According to the press release for this event, Rose’s appearance was sponsored by President Bill Perry and the division of student affairs.

The fact that the university is taking steps to increase awareness about issues associated with sexual assault is fantastic. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

And there’s no doubt that the roughly 150 people in attendance (including Nadler) learned important information and reaped lots of positive energy from her presentation.

However, increasing awareness is not doing enough.

For one, I doubt the people who think sexual assault is OK and who actively assault others went to the presentation.

What drew all this attention to the issue in the first place was the fact that some students were dissatisfied with the reporting process and the way cases are dealt with.

And exactly what is that process? How are those cases dealt with? I couldn’t tell you. And I’m not sure who can.

Before Rose gave her presentation, Jackie Hines, the associate director of sexual assault prevention in the counseling center, told the audience that the three avenues to report assault are the University and Charleston police departments, the office of student standards, and the office of civil rights and diversity.

Instead of hearing presentations on how victims can deal with assault, we should be having open forums on how Eastern deals with sexual assault.

Maybe the process is spot on. I’m not sure.

But that’s the point; very few people are sure of how the process works.

One of the things Rose talked about was how the detectives who interviewed her immediately after she was assaulted did not believe her, and she was even blamed for the incident at certain points during the process.

The Sexual Assault Taskforce should be giving the campus regular updates on what it is doing to ensure things like that don’t happen, what it is doing (if anything) to improve the reporting and subsequent case process and what it is doing in general aside from increasing awareness.

While increasing awareness is invaluable to a college community, we need so much more. The Sexual Assault Taskforce as well as any departments and offices that directly deal with sexual assault cases should be working to improve transparency and understanding on all levels.

Stephanie Markham is a junior journalism major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]